- Title: CHINA: Hong Kong to vote on key democracy blueprint
- Date: 24th June 2010
- Summary: HONG KONG, CHINA (JUNE 23, 2010) (REUTERS) POLICE OUTSIDE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL BUILDING VARIOUS OF YOUNG DEMONSTRATOR WRITING SLOGAN ON FLOOR BLINDFOLDED YOUNG DEMONSTRATORS MARCHING OUTSIDE LEGCO BUILDING
- Embargoed: 9th July 2010 14:41
- Location: China
- Country: China
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAXZMIF53IX463L8P3N3ACX8IB
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: Hong Kong's legislature on Wednesday (June 23) votes on a political reform blueprint that will pave the way for full democracy in 2017, but which has also proven politically divisive and triggered protests.
Since Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997, local politicians have struggled with Beijing to realise full democracy as allowed for in its mini-constitution, the Basic Law.
After months of tension and haggling over the terms of a reform blueprint that will make elections for the city's leader and legislature slightly more democratic starting in 2012, Hong Kong officials this week made a key compromise which was accepted by the opposition Democratic Party and should clear the way for the bill to pass with a required two-thirds majority.
Analysts say the compromise to allow a majority of legislative seats to be directly elected, was granted with Beijing's consent to lessen the risk of radical democratic forces gaining more populist support should a stalemate persist.
But as lawmakers debated the reform package inside the historic domed legislature, scores of protesters -- some blowing vuvuzelas, the trumpet-like instrument popular at the World Cup in South Africa -- denounced the package as regressive Some of the anger was directed at the Democratic Party which is seen to have compromised on its long-standing principles by siding with Beijing on a less-than-ideal package.
"Universal suffrage is a bottom line definition. If this definition can be twisted by the central government to match an image in their eyes, then how can you convince the people?," said demonstrator, Chrystal Chow.
"If democracy by today's definition can be changed into something different tomorrow, then this is impossible to accept. The Democratic Party has no sense accepting this reform plan," Chow added.
A bone of contention are the 'functional constituencies', a professional or special interest group making up half of the seats in government but that is not directly elected by the people.
"They suddenly changed the plan like this," said 62-year-old protester, Chung Kam Shing. "If the functional constituencies are still being kept, this is repugnant and makes us angry," Chung added.
Democrats have been calling for the abolition of functional constituencies. Instead the government has compromised and has allowed for the first time, directly elected seats to form the majority in the legislature.
In 2007, after sustained pressure, Beijing finally laid out a timetable for full democracy, saying universal suffrage would be allowed in 2017 at the earliest.
"In 2020 the LegCo will be elected by universal suffrage," said pro-government supporter, 61-year-old Lay Kit Kum. "This proposal is a way for us to move gradually forward. Now that everyone has this same request, and the government is on board with us, why do we want to oppose it then?"
But many democrats fear Beijing will renege on its promise or rig electoral rules against opposition candidates to preserve its hold on power in the financial hub.
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