Hong Kong (dpa) – Activists in Hong Kong pledged Sunday to launch a wave of protests culminating in the occupation of the city’s business district in response to Beijing’s refusal to allow free elections for the territory.
A 1,200-member committee would nominate two to three candidates who must obtain more than half the votes of the committee before being able to stand for election, according to the decision from the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.
The candidate who then wins the popular vote would also have to be formally appointed by the central government before taking office.
One of the demonstrations against the decision is scheduled Sunday night outside the central government offices. After the rally, student groups plan to lead a march to a hotel where top Beijing official Li Fei is expected to be staying.
Occupy Central, an alliance of pro-democracy activists in the semi-autonomous territory, had endorsed an alternative election plan that would include public nominations and “give voters genuine choice” among candidates.
The group said it now “has no choice” but to move forward with plans to stage a mass sit-in that would block streets in Hong Kong’s business district. It did not name a date for the start of the sit-in.
“The undemocratic position of the Standing Committee not only takes away the right of universal suffrage from Hong Kong people but is also a serious blow to the ‘one country, two systems’ framework,” Occupy Central leader Benny Tai said.
Britain negotiated the “one country, two systems” principle as part of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese rule. It granted freedoms to Hong Kong residents that are not given to ordinary Chinese citizens and grants Hong Kong relative autonomy until 2047.
Pan-democratic lawmaker Cyd Ho, a founding member of the Labour Party, said legislators now have the option to vote against the Standing Committee’s decision although the central government in Beijing has ultimate decision-making power over the format of Hong Kong’s next elections.
Hong Kong’s chief executive, currently Leung Chun-ying, is now picked by a committee of 1,200 people, and half the legislature is elected by appointed interest groups.
Beijing has promised Hong Kong residents universal suffrage in 2017 in accordance with the handover agreement.
“If universal suffrage cannot be achieved in 2017 for whatever reason, the next chief executive would be elected according to the [existing] framework,” said Hong Kong’s local deputy to the National People’s Congress, Maria Tam Wai-chu.
Last week, Chen Zuoer, a Beijing official who helped negotiate Hong Kong’s handover to Chinese rule, urged activists to back down in an interview with local radio station RTHK. He warned that a confrontation would end in bloodshed.
A sit-in by mostly student protesters on July 1, the anniversary of the handover, ended in clashes and hundreds of arrests.
Hundreds of thousands participated in the annual pro-democracy march that day, the highest number in a decade, after the State Council, which is essentially China’s cabinet, issued a policy report that emphasized Beijing’s authority over Hong Kong.