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Thursday, June 18

"Hong Kong Lawmakers Reject Electoral Reform Proposal Backed by Beijing"

by Alissa Greenberg / Hong Kong
1:52 AM EDT
TIME

Pro-demoracy protesters objected to the vetting of candidates

A controversial proposal to allow Hong Kong citizens to directly elect the city’s political leader but only from a list of up to three candidates already screened by Beijing was voted down Thursday after ten hours of debate.
Only eight lawmakers voted in support of the proposal after pro-democracy activists and politicians deemed it a betrayal on an earlier promise to grant the Chinese Special Administrative Region “universal suffrage.” A minimum of 47 of the 70 lawmakers were needed to vote in favor of the proposal.
“I’m sad, I’m disappointed, I don’t know when democratization can be taken forward,” said Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, who favored the proposal.
Anticipating defeat, members of the pro-Beijing camp staged a surprise walk-out, though due to an apparent miscommunication lacked the numbers to remove the necessary quorum of 30 lawmakers. In the end, 37 votes were counted.
On the mainland, state-backed media blamed the defeat on “radicals.”
As a result, the existing method of electing the Chief Executive from an electoral college of 1,200 mainly pro-Beijing representatives will now remain in place for the next vote slated for 2017.
The defeated proposal, which supporters characterized as a significant step towards long-promised democracy and opponents call a false approximation of free elections, spurred debate from both sides lasting from Wednesday into Thursday. 
Following council protocol, each representative was allowed 15 minutes to make a statement, with arguments seeming to boil down to optimism versus skepticism. Proponents said that the reforms would be a first step in a longer process of democratization, while the opposition said they would instead lead to political stagnation and increased mainland involvement in Hong Kong politics.
Representatives Fernando Cheung and Lam Cheuk-ting both said Tuesday that they would vote against the proposal. “This is not a genuine free choice,” Cheung told TIME. 
Lam agreed, calling the reforms a screening system for the opposition and saying they are “totally unacceptable” as well as “ridiculous and shameful.” 
Both representatives expressed concern that passing the reforms would provide the central government with plausible deniability in the promised movement toward democracy and prevent any further measures toward what they see as truly free elections.

Pro-demoracy protesters objected to the vetting of candidates

A controversial proposal to allow Hong Kong citizens to directly elect the city’s political leader but only from a list of up to three candidates already screened by Beijing was voted down Thursday after ten hours of debate.
Only eight lawmakers voted in support of the proposal after pro-democracy activists and politicians deemed it a betrayal on an earlier promise to grant the Chinese Special Administrative Region “universal suffrage.” A minimum of 47 of the 70 lawmakers were needed to vote in favor of the proposal.
“I’m sad, I’m disappointed, I don’t know when democratization can be taken forward,” said Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, who favored the proposal.
Anticipating defeat, members of the pro-Beijing camp staged a surprise walk-out, though due to an apparent miscommunication lacked the numbers to remove the necessary quorum of 30 lawmakers. In the end, 37 votes were counted.
On the mainland, state-backed media blamed the defeat on “radicals.”
As a result, the existing method of electing the Chief Executive from an electoral college of 1,200 mainly pro-Beijing representatives will now remain in place for the next vote slated for 2017.
The defeated proposal, which supporters characterized as a significant step towards long-promised democracy and opponents call a false approximation of free elections, spurred debate from both sides lasting from Wednesday into Thursday. Following council protocol, each representative was allowed 15 minutes to make a statement, with arguments seeming to boil down to optimism versus skepticism. 
Proponents said that the reforms would be a first step in a longer process of democratization, while the opposition said they would instead lead to political stagnation and increased mainland involvement in Hong Kong politics.
Representatives Fernando Cheung and Lam Cheuk-ting both said Tuesday that they would vote against the proposal. “This is not a genuine free choice,” Cheung told TIME. Lam agreed, calling the reforms a screening system for the opposition and saying they are “totally unacceptable” as well as “ridiculous and shameful.” 
Both representatives expressed concern that passing the reforms would provide the central government with plausible deniability in the promised movement toward democracy and prevent any further measures toward what they see as truly free elections.
“The key is about law and order in Hong Kong. It has been degenerating for a few years because of a small minority in town holding a different opinion,” Gary Sum, who works in the banking sector, told TIME outside the legislative complex on Wednesday as around him people waved Chinese flags and sang traditional songs. “We should have more respect for China because we are part of the sovereign state.”
On the other side of the square, at the competing anti-reform rally, Edmund Choi expressed incredulity at the opinions across the barrier, saying that such reforms would not do real good for the city. 
“I don’t know why they come here because if they love Hong Kong what they should do is agree with us,” he said.
[...]


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