News / Asia

Hong Kong Starts Controversial Election Reform Process

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying looks on during a news conference in Hong Kong, July 15, 2014.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying looks on during a news conference in Hong Kong, July 15, 2014.

The Hong Kong government has issued a document formally asking Beijing to allow election reform. The paper, submitted on Tuesday to the Standing Committee of China's legislature, comes after months of intense debate over Beijing's role in the territory's future elections.

The report is the first formal step towards universal suffrage in the former British colony, and the outcome of five-months of government consultation with organizations and individuals in Hong Kong.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said the government had received 124,700 written submissions, and that the reform will be an important milestone of the democratic development of Hong Kong's political system.

"Today is a historic moment in the constitutional development of Hong Kong," he said. "We will be able to take a big stride forward in the democratic development of Hong Kong, if we are willing to forge consensus as much as we can, and leave behind our differences in a rational and pragmatic manner on the remaining work."

Hong Kong's Chief Executive is now elected by a committee of 1,200 people, largely representing Beijing's interests.

Reform plan

Responding to the announcement, Hong Kong Civil Rights Front leader Johnson Yeung said Hong Kongers will have to rely on themselves to push for reform.

"If we want to fight, if we want to occupy, we should not wait for the government’s second round of political consultation," he said. "Otherwise our action would only serve to overturn the consultation. If we want real suffrage, we should take action in civil disobedience between the end of August and the second round of political consultation."

The reform plan, which will ultimately need approval from Beijing, is intended to give the former British colony a “one man, one vote” type of democracy, a unique set up for a region under Chinese rule.

But the details on who will be eligible for top office has created a split between democrats in Hong Kong and the central authorities in Beijing.

Tuesday's document is unlikely to calm the spirits.

It presented two controversial topics as mainstream opinions, including the provision that candidates to the Chief Executive job should love the country and be patriotic, and that they should be picked by a nominating committee and not more directly by the public.

Activists have been calling for a legal framework that allows more independence in picking candidates and such a plan was endorsed by 800,000 Hong Kongers in an unofficial referendum earlier this year.

The paper mentions such a set up - called civic nomination - and says there are still considerable views that it should be included in the plan.

“Civil nomination is described in several points, but always as a kind of alternative view to something that is presented first, typically as a more mainstream view. So it's there, but one wouldn't guess that they [the Hong Kong government] plan to embrace it in any way," explains Michael Davis, a professor of law at Hong Kong University.

Beijing has repeatedly ruled out the possibility of direct selection of candidates by the public, insisting that such a provision does not comply with Hong Kong's constitution, or Basic Law.


In a recent white paper that enraged the territory's pro-democracy camp, Beijing stated that any autonomy the city enjoys is dependent upon authorization by the central government.

Such statements have fueled public mistrust of Beijing's intentions, says Davis, and run counter to the Sino-British agreement which granted Hong Kong with a “high degree of autonomy.”

“If the treaty now is completely dismissed as almost of no significance, but rather all of this takes its authority from China and China can interpret it any way it wants, and even indicates in there that China is the guardian of the rule of law, it's a very different picture than what was presented to Hong Kong when the Sino-British joint declaration was sold to Hong Kong,” said Davis.

Beijing is set to review the electoral reform plan in August and send it back to Hong Kong for comments.

Occupy Central, the group behind the unofficial referendum that endorsed civic nomination, has threatened to occupy downtown Hong Kong should the reform plan that is ultimately adopted fails to meet international standards of democracy.



You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung from: Los Angeles
July 18, 2014 5:03 PM
This week's Economist carries an article called:Britain's Betrayal of Hong Kong. In it, it mentioned how Britain sacrifice defending Hong Kong' s interest to exchange for business with China.

by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung from: Los Angeles
July 17, 2014 1:43 PM
Hong Kong people have to take to the street to show the world that they are angry. They do not support the government whose leader they elected and it is only a puppet for Beijing.

by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung from: Los Angeles
July 17, 2014 12:20 AM
Martin Lee stated that the US State Department is mor robust in defending the rights of the Hong Kong people than the UK government. I am proud of what our government did. China told the USA and UK not to interfere with China's domestic affairs. Why not? Hong Kong SAR is a product of an international treaty called the Joint Declaration.

by: william li from: canada
July 16, 2014 11:34 AM
I never elected any PM candidates here in Canada. Those name on my votes were just the name of the parties and representatives. What I did in a Canadian election is to vote a political party and this party chooses the PM by itself. Tell me why HKers should elect their candidates? those HKers are spoiled kids, they didnt ask for election right under British rule, but riot under communist rules. I smell something there!
In Response

by: Wangchuk from: NY
July 17, 2014 10:44 AM
Genuine autonomy & democracy for Hong Kong is guaranteed under the Basic Law. China has failed to implement democracy in Hong Kong the past 20 years so they are in violation of the law. Autonomy is also guaranteed but China's recent White Paper threatens that autonomy by declaring that only "patriotic" citizens can govern Hong Kong. William Li chooses to live in a democracy (Canada). Why does Mr. Li seek to deny democracy to Hong Kong?

by: Nigeshabi from: Canada
July 16, 2014 11:00 AM
As a British colony for the past 100 years, people in Hongkong have never had democracy and free election of candidates by the public. Why UK did't allow Hongkong to realize democracy and free election, and used dictatorship to suppress Hongkong people for the past 100 years?

Hongkong people fear to protest UK under UK governance before, may be because UK police has guns. Shame on these Hongkong people. If they have fighted with UK for democracy from 1900-1997, they would be enjoying democracy right now without any interruptions. Until now, as a British colony, Hongkong didn’t even have any free election experience, shame on Kongkong people.

Why only fight with China instead of UK? This makes China look feeble, weak like a coward. When Japanese invaded Hongkong in WWII, no much Hongkong people have fighted with these Japanese Fascists because Hongkongese knew these Japanese Fascists would kill them if they interruptted ruling of Japan over Hongkong at that time.

Even in more democratic countries now, candidates of president were selected by Partisan Meeting instead of by public, civil nomination and direct selection of candidates by the public asked by pro-democracy Hongkong people have NOT been realized in even more democratic countries, like UK, US, Canada, Japan, Korean, Germany, France, etc. mainland China help a lot in Hongkong's economy, HK people should have better economy and peaceful and pragmatic politics.
In Response

by: Wangchuk from: NY
July 17, 2014 10:46 AM
For most of China's past it was ruled by emperors. Does that mean China must be ruled by emperors today? Since when does a country's political past dictate its political future? Only one thing is certain in life: change. Democracy for Hong Kong is guaranteed under the Basic Law. Why should the CCP not comply w/ the law? You choose to live in a democratic nation so why do you seek to deny Hong Kong its right to democracy?

by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung from: Los Angeles
July 15, 2014 6:45 PM
For the last 17 years H K people deluded themselves in believing that a transfer of sovereignty is just a change of flags. Now they know what it is like under the best scenario of One Country Two Systems. Under the five star flag, Beijing is the sovereign master and the H K people do not matter, however many of them march into the street in protest.

by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung from: Los Angeles
July 15, 2014 3:08 PM
From the Beijing's perspective, it is not at all controversial. It is a policy they decided at the highest level. The so-called opinion solicitation is a charade. Chinese people all know how the game is played. CY Leung dances to the tune of Beijing and not the H K people. 2017 will not be what H K people want, except for those who are bought up by China. I guess, many disappointed people will either emigrate if they have the option or go into the street to show their anger.

by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung from: Los Angeles
July 15, 2014 2:47 PM
If Hong Kong people believe that Beijing will hand them on a plate universal suffrage and they can choose whoever they want to be their Chief Executive, be he Martin Lee or Longhair, I have an oyster farm for sale in Inner Mongolia. Wake up, folks. The Communist Party do not lose control. Not in their DNA.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs