Earlier today, Hong Kong’s government unveiled plans to reform the city-state’s electoral system.
This is, on the face of it, progress: last year, protests against the repressive, anti-democratic system currently used to elect Hong Kong’s chief executive, the highest role in government, brought the city to a standstill. So, a new electoral system sounds like good news, right?
Yet the plan, first mooted back in August, still doesn’t bring the system anywhere near true democracy. Since 1997, when the city-state moved from British to Chinese control, Hong Kong’s top job has been elected by a 1,200-strong panel of the city’s elite, chosen by interest groups and dominated by a pro-Beijing party. The big change announced today? Hong Kong’s 5m eligible residents can now vote, but only for up to three candidates chosen by that very same pro-China panel. Not ideal.
This half-hearted attempt at reform is, in fact, what sparked September’s “umbrella” protests in the first place, so it’s safe to say pro-democracy protesters aren’t happy with today’s announcement. The bill will go before legislators today, but must get two thirds of the vote to pass – yet 27 of the 70 legislators have pledged to veto the bill, describing it as “ridiculous”.
Many pro-democracy lawmakers wore black with stark yellow crosses on their chests to the chamber for the bill’s announcement by chief executive CY Leung’s second in command, and walked out immediately following her speech.
Emily Lau, chair of the Hong Kong democratic party, told CNN:
Their fake universal suffrage is an insult to everybody’s intelligence; that’s why we refused to stay in the chamber.
So what if it fails? Chief executive Leung has helpfully told reporters
As of now, we see no room for any compromise. To initiate any political reform process is not easy. If this proposal is vetoed, it could be several years before the next opportunity.
Looks like campaigners and legislators alike are stuck in a Catch-22: they have to choose between limited change now, or no change at all for what could be a very long time. Watch this space.
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