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Hong Kong Voters Demand Election Reform in Unofficial Poll

  • Da Hai Han

People line up at a polling center to vote in an unofficial referendum on democratic reform in Hong Kong, June 22, 2014.

People line up at a polling center to vote in an unofficial referendum on democratic reform in Hong Kong, June 22, 2014.

An unofficial pro-democracy referendum in Hong Kong has been extended through next Sunday, with nearly 720,000 people voting in the past three days to change how city leadership is elected.

The Occupy Central movement, which favors open elections rather than the current Beijing-driven narrow list of candidates, organized the vote to pressure government action.

Benny Tai Yiu-ting, an Occupy Central organizer, said a 21 percent voter turnout through the first weekend of the referendum demands government attention.

"They have clearly indicated their view that they deeply want true democracy for Hong Kong. I would say, any responsible government cannot ignore or undervalue their views, and must seriously consider their views when the government starts to work on its own proposal on the chief executive election method," he said.

A 1,200-member committee of mostly pro-Beijing elites currently chooses Hong Kong’s leadership. Beijing has said Hong Kong can choose its representatives starting in 2017, but rejects the idea of the publicly-nominated candidates.

Occupy Central included three election options in its referendum, which was available in person and online.

In an editorial on Monday, China's state-run Global Post newspaper called the referendum an "illegal farce." Some mainland Chinese readers took to the web to object, with one comment from Hunan province noting, "1.3 billion Chinese cannot even decide our fate by ourselves, but want to decide Hong Kongers' fate. How ridiculous."

VOA observed many posts on the issue had been deleted on China's Weibo micro-blogging platform.

Hong Kong activists are threatening to shut down the city's central business district with a massive, Occupy Wall Street-style sit-in, if demands for reform are not taken seriously.

Zhou Yongkang, the secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, told VOA’s Mandarin Service Monday the date of any civil disobedience is undetermined.

"We won’t give a date. We are saying we will occupy central [business district] if the government denies the public’s will," Zhou said. "We are watching for the government’s response."

Polling is expected to continue through June 29.

There are approximately 3.5 million registered voters in Hong Kong.

Yibing Feng contributed to this report from Washington.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.

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