Mon, Jun 01, 2015 - Page 4 News List

HK political battle runs on as last-ditch meeting fails

‘UNEQUIVOCAL CONCLUSION’:Civic Party leader Alan Leong said the Central People’s Government left the pro-democracy camp with little choice after failing to yield

AFP, HONG KONG

Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers yesterday said they would “definitely” veto the government’s planned political reforms after a last-ditch meeting with Chinese officials failed to reach any agreement.

The package unveiled in April for the semi-autonomous Chinese territory would for the first time allow all voters to elect Hong Kong’s next chief executive in 2017.

However, critics deride the proposal as “fake democracy” because it sticks to a ruling by China that candidates must first be approved by a loyalist committee.

Beijing’s restrictions, announced in August last year, sparked more than two months of mass rallies that brought main roads in parts of the territory to a standstill late last year.

Democratic lawmakers yesterday said they had made no progress after meeting top Beijing officials in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.

The meeting was widely seen as the last chance for compromise before Hong Kong lawmakers vote on the political reform package this month. It needs a two-thirds majority to pass and pro-democracy lawmakers make up more than one-third of the legislature.

“We came here ... trying to find a way out of the impasse,” Civic Party leader Alan Leong (梁家傑) told reporters after the four-hour meeting, which was attended by 14 out of 27 pro-democracy lawmakers as well as 40 pro-Beijing legislators and Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英).

“We are left with an unequivocal conclusion that the Central People’s Government is not going to yield,” Leong said. “We are therefore left with no choice, but to definitely veto the government proposal.”

Chinese State Council Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Wang Guangya (王光亞) said it was “unfortunate” that the democrats were uniting to stop the plan.

“The other side behaved like a bloc, holding on to their strict position... I don’t think it’s constructive or healthy,” he said after the meeting. Wang said lawmakers have a “historic responsibility” to cast their vote “with conscience.”

Before the meeting Wang had said that any election plan would have to stick to Beijing’s ruling. Chinese National People’s Congress Standing Committee Deputy Secretary-General Li Fei (李飛) said the vote would test whether democrats are loyal to the principle of “one country, two systems” under which Hong Kong is ruled, local media reported.

Hong Kong was handed back to China by Britain in 1997, but is largely self-governing and enjoys freedoms not seen in China. Li also warned during the meeting that lawmakers could be “punished” by voters for vetoing the plan, the South China Morning Post reported on its Web site.

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