HONG KONG: Hong Kong residents voted Sunday on the last day of an unofficial referendum on electoral reform that has angered Beijing, days before an expected major protest seeking greater democracy for the southern Chinese city.
More than 770,000 people in the semi-autonomous territory have voted in the 10-day poll on how Hong Kong’s next leader should be chosen. The ballot has been dismissed by Chinese state media as “an illegal farce”.
Tensions are running high in the former British colony before the anniversary on July 1 of its 1997 handover to China, a traditional day of protest.
Concerns are rising that Chinese influence over the self-ruled city is increasing, and that liberties it was guaranteed under the handover agreement are being eroded.
Pro-democracy advocates are incensed at plans for the election of Hong Kong’s next chief executive—who is currently appointed by a 1,200-strong pro-Beijing committee.
China has promised to let all Hong Kong residents vote for their next leader in 2017. But it says candidates must be approved by a nomination committee—upsetting democracy advocates, who say only pro-Beijing figures will be allowed to stand.
Organizers of Tuesday’s rally expect it to be the largest since the handover with upwards of 500,000 people expected, as frustration grows over Beijing’s tightening control over the city.
“Public sentiment has dropped to the lowest point since 2003. I believe more people will come out,” said Johnson Yeung, one of the organizers.
A record 500,000 people took part in a rally against a proposed national security bill in 2003, forcing the government to shelve it.
It was a key factor in the resignation two years later of the chief executive Tung Chee-hwa.