Hong Kong lawmakers voted down a controversial Beijing-backed election proposal today after 10 hours of debate.
The plan would allow the former British colony’s five million voters to choose their chief executive from a selection of two or three Beijing-vetted candidates in 2017. A total of 28 voted against the plan and 34 members didn’t vote.
Expecting defeat, most of the pro-Beijing lawmakers staged what appeared to be a surprise walk-out, but later blamed it on miscommunication, saying they were waiting on a fellow lawmaker to use the bathroom and needed a 15 minute break. The government required 47 of the 70 lawmakers to vote in favor of the proposal.
China’s committee of 1,200, dominated by Communist loyalists, would’ve hand-pick nominees that were considered “acceptable” to the Chinese government to appear in the ballot. The opposition lawmakers, who consist mostly of pro-democracy participants from last year’s Occupy movement, believe Beijing was only giving them a “fake” democratic election.
“We used our sacred vote today to veto a fake universal suffrage proposal,” Alan Leong, a pro-democracy legislator, told reporters after the vote. “We helped Hong Kong people send a clear message to Beijing that we want real choice. This isn’t the end of the democracy movement in Hong Kong. A new chapter starts today”.
While the vote took place, pro-democracy and pro-Beijing supporters gathered outside the government buildings, separated by metal fences. The two sides engaged in arguments and threw garbage at each other.
“You don’t represent us, you represent the central government!” a middle-aged woman reportedly shouted.
Security outside the buildings has increased since last year’s protest and the recent explosives incident.
After the vote, Carrie Lam, the Chief Secretary who has been working aggressively to get the election package to pass, told reporters that “No matter what the result today, society needs some time to calm down and reflect on what has happened over these past 20 months, and think about the future direction of Hong Kong.”
As for the Chinese government, this has become its biggest political challenge yet.
Beijing had previously promised to attend a meeting with opposition lawmakers in Shenzhen on May 31. The lawmakers, however, chose not to attend. Beijing has said that it would remain strict on its stance.
Ahead of the vote, Joshua Wong, the face of pro-democracy student protestors who was recently denied entry into Malaysia, told reporters: “The future generation of Hong Kong, we still believe that today the Communist Party dominates our future, but if we persist on what we believe in, we finally can win.”
Watch Wong’s interview with CNN below:
[Images via Tiexue.net]
By Sharon Choi