Thousands are expected to march in Hong Kong to demand that lawmakers reject a China-backed plan for the city’s first direct chief executive election amid growing public opposition to the bill.
Students, parents, retirees, clergy members and others plan to rally at 3 p.m. Sunday in Victoria Park before marching to the government headquarters. Organizers of the march, who want to remove proposed restrictions on election nominees, have called on protesters to rally outside the Legislative Council building this week to pressure lawmakers.
Popular opposition to the bill, which calls for 2017 election candidates to be picked by a nominating committee, has jumped to 43.4 percent of those surveyed by a coalition of universities. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying needs four pro-democracy lawmakers to vote for the bill and provide a two-thirds majority for passage.
“We have mixed feelings because we do want universal suffrage,” said Daisy Chan, a convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, a march participant. “But the voting system they proposed is not what we wanted.”
Pro-democracy activists have mocked the plan as “fake democracy” as they said the 1,200-member nominating committee is stacked with Beijing loyalists. Vetting is required under the city’s de facto constitution, Leung and the Chinese government have said.
The bill will be presented to the legislature on Wednesday for debate before voting. Carrie Lam -- the city’s No. 2 official -- sees “zero” chance for legislation to get through because all pro-democracy lawmakers have pledged to vote against it, the Hong Kong Economic Times reported June 12.
Scholarism -- a student group taking part in the march -- has vowed to escalate protest actions should the bill pass. Public anger over China’s outline for the proposal last year led to 79 days of protests, dubbed the Umbrella Movement, and violent fights with the police.
The government is spending HK$5 million ($645,000) on public meetings, television ads, and posters blanketing trains and buses to win support for the plan. Opposition has been rising since hitting a low of 34.5 percent on May 31, the same day top Beijing officials told a group of pro-democracy lawmakers there was no chance of modifying the proposed framework, which, if passed, would apply to all future elections in Hong Kong.
The share of those who support the proposal has declined to 41.6 percent, according to a tracking poll conducted by three local universities.
“Hong Kong people were disappointed that our government and China have not proposed anything new or different” during a May 31 meeting with pro-democracy lawmakers, said Chan. “They have to respect our demands and don’t think they can ignore us after the Umbrella Movement is over.”
More than 7,000 police will be deployed during the electoral bill vote to prevent any new occupation, and they will be be prepared to use teargas and pepper spray if any demonstrations turn violent, the South China Morning Post reported June 2, citing unidentified police officers.
If the China-backed plan fails, the city’s top leader will continue to be selected by a committee of 1,200 business, political and social elite, which has hewed to Beijing’s interests.