HONG KONG - Hong Kong’s legislature voted down a controversial plan for electoral reform Thursday, after months of debate and mass protests over the city’s democratic future.
Legislators vetoed the proposal for election reform, declaring that the Beijing-backed proposal for "universal suffrage" was actually “fake democracy.”
The legislative debate had drawn about a thousand protesters to government offices this week, both in support of and against the plan, which calls for the city’s chief executive to be elected directly but stipulates that any candidates must be approved by the central government in Beijing.
Many legislators were not present for the afternoon vote, which happened earlier than expected.
In all, 28 legislators voted against the plan, eight voted in support and one abstained. Moments before, a group of pro-government legislators forfeited their votes by staging a last-minute walkout.
Legislative chamber action
Emily Lau, chairwoman of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, said that inside the legislative chamber, "everybody knew the package would be voted down. But so many of the pro-establishment legislators went out ... so it was a very farcical end to this very sad saga."
Hours after the vote, China’s state news service, Xinhua, released a cryptic statement that said the Chinese legislature’s decision on Hong Kong's electoral reforms last August would remain in force, despite the Hong Kong Legislative Council's veto of the universal suffrage motion Thursday.
Xinhua did not include any other information in the statement.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang expressed disappointment in the veto. He said the central government’s goal was to promote Hong Kong's democratic development and elect the chief executive through universal suffrage.
He said the central and special administrative regional governments had made a huge effort in this regard. He added that Chinese officials hadn't wanted to see a veto of the electoral reform plan.
Months of protests
Thursday's vote followed months of public rancor and protests over the city’s electoral process.
Last fall, tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators blocked Hong Kong streets, demanding direct elections of the city’s leader.
Joseph Cheng of the City University of Hong Kong said the majority veto of the electoral reform plan reflected popular sentiment.
“So the pro-democracy legislators actually feel obliged to respond to this demand because these people are the very foundation of the voters’ support," Cheng said.
Despite the Hong Kong legislature's veto, Chinese government officials said there is no plan to revise their electoral reform plan.