HONG KONG: Hong Kong students to hold street vote on next steps for protest

Sunday 26 October 2014

Date: 26 October 2014

Source: The Australian Business Review

Type: News

Keywords: Hong Kong protests

HONG Kong was calm on Saturday ahead of a two-day vote organised by protest leaders — an attempt to seek popular legitimacy for a pro-democracy movement that for almost a month has clogged the city’s main arteries.

Crowds grew over the weekend at the downtown protest site, as they have during other weekends, though there were no reports of clashes between demonstrators and police as on other recent evenings.

The student-led protesters want anyone to be able to stand for Hong Kong’s first public ballot for chief executive in 2017. China’s government in August ruled a selection committee largely loyal to Beijing will select those who can stand, sparking the protests.

Some local citizens — who have taken to wearing blue ribbons — are angry that students have shut down parts of the city over the issue. Reports said some blue ribbon demonstrators had attacked journalists covering their counter protests in Kowloon on Saturday night, local time.

Radio Television Hong Kong and Television Broadcasts issued statements complaining their journalists had been pushed and kicked by blue ribbon protesters. Police had not made any arrests.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying reiterated over the weekend that he would not resign, saying the protesters’ demands were not in accordance with the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.

Student leaders want to show their aims have broad support in this city of seven million. Protests have numbered in the thousands recently, and the thoughts of many citizens are unclear.

The poll was to be held overnight and tonight. Student leaders are asking people to vote on two proposals. One is that the Hong Kong government, in a report on the protests it plans to send to Beijing, should demand China rescinds its decision from August and allow anyone to stand for chief executive.

The second motion includes a proposal to allow the public to put forward candidates for the 2017 election for chief executive, the city’s top post.

Anyone who attends a protest — in the Admiralty, Causeway Bay or Mong Kok districts of the city — can vote by giving their identity card details and then sending an SMS either agreeing with or rejecting the proposals, or abstaining.

City leaders already have said these proposals are impossible to achieve under the Basic Constitution.

Some protesters and students said they feared the poll could backfire. A vote that shows divisions or sows confusion among protesters could seriously undermine the movement at a crucial point.

Andy Wong, an accountant who was camping out at the Admiralty site, said yesterday he was unsure what the vote would accomplish.

“We don’t know what direction this would lead,” he said.

Benny Tai, one of the key protest leaders, said the vote was only the beginning of a democratic process and that protesters could put forward other motions in the future.

“This is a kind of interactive process,” he said.

Designer Tricia Ling, 26, said the vote was unnecessary.

“The people have already shown their choice by staying on the street through sunny days and rainy nights,” she said.

Student leaders, meanwhile, were already starting to look beyond the vote for ways to bring about a citywide referendum on democratic reforms.

“If the movement is to grow, a civil referendum across Hong Kong is truly needed,” said Alex Chow, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, who called the vote “a small side dish”.

A mass resignation by sympathetic legislators, which would trigger citywide by-elections, would be one way to accomplish that goal, Mr Chow said in a television interview.

That election could serve as a “de facto referendum,” allowing citizens to state their positions on reforms and Beijing’s framework for elections, Mr. Chow said.###

See online : The Australian Business Review

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