23 February 2019
With Beijing sticking to a hard-line approach on the Hong Kong 2017 chief executive election, the stage is set for fresh protests by pro-democracy groups. Photo: AFP
With Beijing sticking to a hard-line approach on the Hong Kong 2017 chief executive election, the stage is set for fresh protests by pro-democracy groups. Photo: AFP

China takes tough stance on HK election; protests loom

The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) has ruled that only two or three candidates should be allowed to run in the Hong Kong chief executive election, and that contenders must secure the support of at least half of the members of a nominating committee to qualify for the race.

The decision on Sunday, which was on expected lines, was endorsed by all 170 members of the NPC Standing Committee after deliberations on the political reform framework for the 2017 chief executive election and the 2016 legislative council polls, Ming Pao Daily News reported Monday.

The nominating committee, including its size, the methods for electing the members, and the composition of the group, will be “in accordance with” the features seen in the election committee that decided the 2012 poll. Members will come from four main sectors.

The decision by the NPC did not specify an applicable year. Therefore, it may mean that the rules could apply to all chief executive elections in future, the report said.

Pan-democrats, who hold 27 votes at the legislative council, said they will vote against the political reform proposal.

Occupy Central Movement founder Benny Tai said the ruling meant there was no room for dialogue with the central government. A series of campaigns will be staged by pro-democracy activists before an ultimate move to “occupy” the city’s Central financial district, he said.

Chief Executive CY Leung said the NPC ruling is not ultimate and the Hong Kong government could initiate a process for further political reform in the future. He urged the public to compare the existing election method (selection of a chief executive by 1,200-strong nominating committee) and adopting the NPC proposal of letting over 5 million eligible voters decide.

The NPC Standing Committee decided that the existing formation method and voting procedures for the Legislative Council will not be amended.

Li Fei, vice secretary-general of the NPC Standing Committee, arrived in Hong Kong Sunday night. He will host a political reform briefing session at the Asia World Expo on Monday. Pan-democrats, representatives from the Hong Kong Federation of Students, and Occupy Central founders (except Benny Tai) will be present at the session.

Student activist group Scholarism, meanwhile, plans to stage a protest outside the venue.

Li is scheduled to meet with members of the Executive Council and senior Hong Kong government officials Monday afternoon.

Li said he is aware of the concerns of some people in Hong Kong, but said the city would miss a chance for democratic development and could be dragged down by further political tensions if opposition lawmakers decide to vote against the political reform proposal.

The NPC Standing Committee stressed that the chief executive has to be a person who “loves the country and loves Hong Kong”.

Benny Tai described the NPC ruling Sunday as the darkest chapter for Hong Kong’s democratic development under the “one country, two systems” framework.

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