Hong Kong pro-democracy activists plan to rally on Sunday against China’s proposal for electing the city’s next leader that campaigners expect will fall short of their demands for a genuine choice of candidates.
Chinese lawmakers meeting in Beijing this week are discussing a draft plan that will cap the number of candidates at two or three and insist each garner the support of 50 percent of a 1,200-member nomination committee, the South China Morning Post reported, citing two unidentified people.
The proposal, which will be voted on Aug. 31 at a plenary session of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, will trigger a showdown with protest groups because it means China’s Communist Party leaders can effectively vet nominees through the nomination committee, which is dominated by Hong Kong’s pro-China elite.
If the reported draft is approved, activist group Occupy Central With Love and Peace will start its protest activities and elevate step by step, co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting said today in a phone interview. A demonstration will be held at 7 p.m. on Aug. 31 outside the offices of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, he said.
“We’re very unsatisfied,” about the disclosed plan, he said. Occupy Central have said at least 10,000 people will stage a sit-in in the financial district if international standards for universal suffrage aren’t met, while more radical student groups have threatened to boycott classes and also take to the streets.
The threat has divided the city with tycoons, business groups and officials warning protests could turn violent and tarnish the city’s reputation as a global financial center. A July 1 pro-democracy rally drew as many as 172,000, while a counter, anti-Occupy Central march on Aug. 17 attracted about 88,000, according to estimates by the University of Hong Kong.
Students are also gearing up for action that may start Sept. 1, even though it probably won’t force China to change its plan, said Alex Chow, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students.
“This is to tell them that this is the beginning of Hong Kong people’s fight,” Chow said. “The other side has already left the negotiation table, so you have to see how Hong Kong people can fight” to push for greater electoral reform, he said.
July 1 Sit-In
The federation organized a sit-in that blocked traffic and resulted in more than 500 arrests the day after a July 1 pro-democracy march turned into Hong Kong’s biggest in a decade.
Hong Kong is set to allow citizens to pick their leader through universal suffrage in 2017 for the first time, replacing a system where the chief executive is selected by a 1,200 member election committee. Once the ruling from China is announced, the Hong Kong government will hold a public consultation which Leung will take into account when he submits proposals to the city’s legislature.
The bill will require two-thirds of the 70-member Legislative Council to support it, meaning the legislation could be vetoed by the 27 opposition members.
Pro-democracy lawmakers find the proposed framework unacceptable and vowed to veto the Hong Kong government’s reform proposal if it contained the same restrictions, the SCMP said today.