Hong Kong rejects China-backed reform bill

Hong Kong lawmakers defeat Beijing reform plan despite warnings

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Hong Kong lawmakers refused to pass a Beijing-backed electoral reform bill on Thursday, with many supporters of the bill staging a walkout before the actual vote.   

In the meantime hundreds of Beijing supporter gathered and surrounded the government buildings. Twenty eight out of 70 Hong Kong’s lawmakers voted against the controversial bill, eight voted in favor and others abstained.

The government needed the support of 47 of the 70 lawmakers’ to pass the bill, which was protested against by tens of thousands of people in Hong Kong’s streets last year.

The walk out of the legislative chamber by pro-Beijing lawmakers was a suprising moment which remain memorable in the history of Hong Kong’s democracy.

"We have no idea what happened with the rest of the group suddenly deciding to leave the chamber," said James Tien of the pro-government Liberal Party who stayed in the chamber and voted for the bill.

The result of the poll was a "victory,” according to pro-democracy legislator Albert Chan, who voted against the bill.

"We do not want to have a fake democratic system in Hong Kong," he told CNN.

"We want to continue fight for genuine democracy."

The people of Hong Kong would have gained the right to vote for a chief executive in 2017 for the first time in the special administrative region’s history, if the bill had passed.

But the bill also imposed the obligation that democratically elected candidates must be vetted by a Beijing-backed loyalist committee.

After the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress announced the electoral reform proposals, tens of thousands of people staged three month protests beginning September 2014 and known as the “Umbrella Revolution” or “Umbrella Movement.”

Pro-democracy legislators have refused to pass the controversial bill, saying that elected candidates vetted and approved by a Beijing loyalist committee would be "fake universal suffrage."

Pan democratic leader from Hong Kong’s Civic Party, Alan Leong said that it would "go down in history" due to only eight people voting in favor for the bill.

"This veto has helped Hong Kong people send a clear message to Beijing ... that we want a genuine choice, a real election," said Leong.

"This is not the end of the democratic movement," he said.

"This is a new beginning."

Pro-democracy student leader Joshua Wong, a key figure in last year's demonstrations, said a referendum to decide the future of Hong Kong should be undertaken in cooperation with all its residents.  

"In last year's battle, we could not win," Wong told CNN on Wednesday, before adding. "But in the future war, we can finally get back the right of Hong Kong people.”

Beijing warned legislators that rejection of the bill could bring the democratisation process in the region to a standstill.

After the announcement of the vote’s result China’s government expressed sadness.

“The result of the vote in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory was something Beijing was unwilling to see,"  China Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters.

TRTWorld and agencies