Hong Kong bucked Beijing again on Thursday, but China’s Communist Party was quick to remind the former British colony that, in choosing future leaders, the mainland will reign supreme.
As expected, Hong Kong’s Legislative Council refused to approve a Beijing-backed proposal on how the region could choose its next chief executive, in 2017. The 28-8 vote against the proposal was an apparent blow to China’s leaders, who had used their propaganda machine to urge Hong Kong to embrace Beijing’s version of “universal suffrage.”
Yet Hong Kong is hardly celebrating. The Communist Party was quick to remind democracy activists that it will not entertain alternative proposals for choosing Hong Kong’s future leaders.
In a terse statement, the government-run Xinhua news service said that China’s decision on Hong Kong’s electoral system last August “will remain in force in the future, despite Hong Kong Legislative Council’s veto of the universal suffrage motion.”
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For more than a decade, Hong Kong has been rebelling against what many citizens see as Beijing’s efforts to control their future. China’s legislature last year agreed to let registered Hong Kong voters choose their chief executive, but with a committee loyal to Beijing choosing the two or three candidates who could run.
Tens of thousands took to the streets last year to protest that proposal, labeling it as “fake democracy” and a mockery of universal suffrage. Many cheered Thursday when the region’s Legislative Council rejected the proposal, which it came with some unexpected twists.
To pass, the proposal needed a two-thirds vote from the 70-member Hong Kong council, but more than 30 of the pro-Beijing lawmakers were missing, apparently absent to try to prevent a quorum and delay a losing vote. Yet a few pro-Beijing lawmakers remained, enough for them and 28 “pan-democratic” lawmakers to constitute a quorum, resulting in the 28-8 vote.
The Beijing-based Global Times newspaper, a mouthpiece of the Communist Party, quickly attempted to pin the blame on over-reaching democratic activists.
“This is a sad moment for Hong Kong’s progress towards democracy,” the newspaper said in an editorial. “The collective objection from the pan-democrats knocked back any hope for ‘one person, one vote’ elections.”
Hong Kong, one of Asia’s most dynamic trade centers, was turned over to China in 1997, predicated on an agreement that Hong Kong would enjoy a “high degree of autonomy” for at least 50 years. Many analysts have since criticized the British for not insisting upon enforceable provisions that would ensure that China would honor the gist of that agreement.