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Pro-Beijing Group Seeks Support in Bid to Counter Occupy Central

July 21 (Bloomberg) -- A pro-Beijing group is asking for signatures from residents and tourists in Hong Kong to stop mass sit-ins in the city’s financial district, planned by a protest group in a push for full democracy.

The Alliance for Peace and Democracy’s initial target is for 800,000 signatures, said spokesman Robert Chow Yung, which would outnumber those who took part in an unofficial referendum organized by protest group Occupy Central with Love and Peace last month. The alliance campaign, which began July 19, collected about 201,000 signatures from Hong Kong residents on its first day, while about 246 tourists signed, Chow said.

“I don’t want to see the Occupy Central campaign paralyse Hong Kong’s business district,” said Jennifer Chau, 38, a clinic nurse who took part in the alliance campaign during her lunch break. Chau added that she supports universal suffrage.

The campaign is seeking to counter protest group Occupy Central, which is demanding the public be allowed to nominate candidates for Hong Kong’s next top official in 2017, and has threatened to mobilize 10,000 protesters if electoral reforms don’t meet international standards. The former British colony saw its biggest rally in a decade on July 1, the anniversary of its return to China, as protesters marched to demand democracy.

Basic Law

China guarantees Hong Kong universal suffrage to elect a leader in 2017 while emphasizing the election process must follow the Basic Law, the city’s Chief Executive Chun-ying Leung said July 19, citing a weekend meeting with Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.

The Basic Law, the city’s mini constitution, has made clear that only the nomination committee has a “substantive power” to put forward candidates, Hong Kong’s government said in a report last week.

While only permanent Hong Kong residents aged 18 or above were allowed to take part in Occupy Central’s unofficial referendum, criteria was more lenient for the alliance’s campaign. Tourists or “someone passing by” should have the right to participate in Hong Kong’s “peace movement,” and transparency will be maintained by announcing their count separately, Chow said.

Children, who may be as young as a six-year-old, should also have their right to have a say in their future as long as they know what is being signed, he said. It would be up to the campaign volunteers to judge if a child understands and are not forced by their parents. The campaign will last until August 17, with more than 330 stations set up across the city.

Financial Risks

Hong Kong’s financial system faces risks if the Occupy Central movement gets out of control, Joseph Yam, former chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the city’s de facto central bank, said yesterday. Speaking at a book fair, Yam said the territory also risks losing China’s trust as a reliable financing platform.

“Hong Kong won’t be able to maintain its status as an international financial center if it loses stability,” Ting-ting Gao, a 17-year-old immigrant from China’s southeastern Fujian province, said at a signature station outside HSBC Holdings Plc in the Central district.

A total of 792,808 people voted in Occupy Central’s referendum, according to organizers. As many as 172,000 people marched to push for democracy on July 1, according to an estimate by the University of Hong Kong.

To contact the reporters on this story: Vinicy Chan in Hong Kong at vchan91@bloomberg.net; Kana Nishizawa in Hong Kong at knishizawa5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Stanley James at sjames8@bloomberg.net Garry Smith, Phani Varahabhotla

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