Skip to main content

Beijing says no to open elections in Hong Kong

From Andrew Stevens, CNN
updated 8:57 PM EDT, Thu September 4, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Beijing says only candidates approved by a nominating panel can run to lead Hong Kong
  • The city's current leader insists it's a step in the right direction
  • Hong Kong's pro-democracy Occupy Central movement says it's a move that stifles democracy
  • Protesters take to the streets in Hong Kong and vow more civil disobedience

Hong Kong (CNN) -- It's a decision thousands of protesters feared.

China's powerful National People's Congress Standing Committee voted Sunday to change the way Hong Kong picks its chief executive, ruling that only candidates approved by a nominating committee will be allowed to run.

A top Chinese official made clear the candidates all must "love the country and love Hong Kong."

The city's current leader insists it's a step in the right direction.

"The majority of Hong Kong citizens, namely, the 5 million qualified voters of the selection of chief executive in 2017, will be able to cast their votes to select the chief executive," said Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

Speaking at an event Monday to explain the NPC's decision, he added: "This is the first opportunity -- a very good opportunity -- for Hong Kong to have one man, one vote -- universal suffrage. This is something we should all feel proud of."

But that's not how Hong Kong's pro-democracy Occupy Central movement sees it. The group has vocally pushed for elections in which any candidate can run for chief executive. For weeks, protesters have taken to the streets.

Hong Kong protesters denounce the Chinese government on August 31, 2014, after Beijing announced candidates for Hong Kong's next leader must be approved by a Beijing-backed committee. Hong Kong protesters denounce the Chinese government on August 31, 2014, after Beijing announced candidates for Hong Kong's next leader must be approved by a Beijing-backed committee.
August 31: Protesters denounce China's ruling
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
>
>>
Photos: Political protests in Hong Kong Photos: Political protests in Hong Kong
Huge pro-government rally in Hong Kong
Democracy for Hong Kong
Tracing Hong Kong's antagonism

In a statement on its website, the group slammed Beijing's decision as a move that stifles democracy and blocks people with different political views from running for office.

"Genuine universal suffrage includes both the rights to elect and to be elected," the statement said. "The decision of the NPC Standing Committee has deprived people with different political views of the right to run for election and be elected by imposing unreasonable restrictions, thereby perpetuating 'handpicked politics.'"

Scores of people -- including pro-Beijing groups and pro-democracy supporters -- gathered at the city's AsiaWorld-Expo Monday where the city's decision-makers were meeting. Local media reported chaotic scenes at the conference center as pan-democrats attempted to disrupt an address by Li Fei, deputy secretary general of the NPC Standing Committee.

Freedoms eroded

Under the "one country, two systems" policy, the 7 million residents of Hong Kong -- defined as a "Special Administrative Region" of China -- are afforded greater civil liberties than those in the mainland.

This reflects an agreement reached between China and the United Kingdom before the handover, which promised Hong Kong a "high degree of autonomy" for 50 years after its return.

But the decision to change the way Hong Kong picks its leader comes amid increasing fears that those freedoms are being eroded.

Currently, Hong Kong's leader is chosen by an election committee selected mostly by Beijing loyalists.

Beijing brushed aside demonstrators' demands for a fully open election in 2017, saying the decision to change the system is in line with Hong Kong's basic law. Protesters demands are self-serving, one top official said.

"Those people's so-called international standards are tailored for themselves," said Li Fei, deputy secretary general of the National People's Congress Standing Committee. "They are not the international standards, but their personal standards."

Civil disobedience

Throngs of pro-democracy protesters rallied in central Hong Kong on Sunday to condemn Beijing's decision and promised there would be more protests.

The threat of civil disobedience "is our bargaining power," Benny Tai, the organizer of Occupy Central, told CNN earlier this month. "They take us seriously, though they will never admit that."

These radicals could indeed incite a group of people to rally with them but they are facing a powerful will and a strong legal framework that Hong Kong must remain stable.
Global Times

After a massive rally calling for democracy in the Chinese territory in July, hundreds of demonstrators -- including prominent lawmakers -- were arrested.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators protesting Occupy Central marched in Hong Kong earlier this month. Local media swirled with reports of marchers getting paid or bused in to attend the pro-government march.

The march's organizer said he took the accusations seriously and would investigate but maintained that no laws were broken.

'Paper tiger'

But a commentary published Monday by the state-controlled Global Times dismissed this opposition and suggested Hong Kong's political reforms had come to a "foregone conclusion."

"The radical opposition camp is doomed to be a paper tiger in front of Hong Kong's mainstream public opinion and the firm resolution of the central government," it said.

"These radicals could indeed incite a group of people to rally with them but they are facing a powerful will and a strong legal framework that Hong Kong must remain stable. They will definitely be called to account if they resort to illegal confrontation. And if they raise objections in a legal way, their efforts will end in vain."

Meanwhile, Fernando Chui Sai-on has been re-elected uncontested as Macau's chief executive. Like nearby Hong Kong, Macau is a "Special Administrative Region" of China, following its transition from Portuguese control in 1999.

The territory has itself faced calls for greater democracy, though its constitution makes no mention of universal suffrage. A recent unofficial poll on this question was shut down by police and several pro-democracy organizers were arrested for allegedly breaching privacy laws.

CNN's Ivan Watson, Catherine E. Shoichet, Tim Hume, Zoe Li, Radina Gigova, Wilfred Chan, Vivian Kam, and Esther Pang contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 1:18 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
A top retired general has confessed to taking bribes, becoming the highest-profile figure in China's military to be caught up in President Xi Jinping's war on corruption.
updated 1:07 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
A group in China escapes from a stuck elevator thanks to one man and his trusty hammer. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout reports.
updated 9:52 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Facebook's founder says he taught himself Mandarin and tested his skills with students in China.
updated 9:33 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
China launched an experimental spacecraft that is scheduled to orbit the moon before returning to Earth.
updated 12:19 PM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Full marks for ingenuity: This was a truly high-tech scam.
updated 1:26 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
The rationale behind Confucius Institutes -- an international chain of academic centers run by an arm of the Chinese government -- is understandable.
updated 11:11 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Smooth jazz saxophonist Kenny G wants everyone to know that he's not a foreign agitator trying to defy the Chinese Communist Party.
updated 7:13 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
A smuggler in Dandong, a Chinese border town near North Korea, tells CNN about the underground trade with North Korean soldiers
updated 1:11 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Yenn Wong got quite a surprise one morning earlier this month when she found out an exact copy of her Hong Kong restaurant had opened in China.
updated 11:15 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
When I first came across a "virtual lover" service on e-commerce site Taobao, China's version of Amazon, I thought it was hype.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Each year Yi Jiefeng does what she can to stop China turning into a desert.
updated 10:54 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
As its relationship with the West worsen, Russia is pivoting east in an attempt to secure business with China.
updated 10:29 PM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
Aspiring Chinese comics performing in Shanghai's underground comedy scene hope to bring stand-up to the masses.
updated 12:54 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Liu Wen is one of the world's highest-paid models and the first Chinese face to crack the top five in Forbes' annual list of top earners.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Fri October 3, 2014
Cunning wolf? Working class hero? Or bland Beijing loyalist? C.Y. Leung was a relative unknown when he came to power in 2012.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
 A man uses his smartphone on July 16, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. Only 53.5% of Japanese owned smartphones in March, according to a white paper released by the Ministry of Communications on July 15, 2014. The survey of a thousand participants each from Japan, the U.S., Britain, France, South Korea and Singapore, demonstrated that Japan had the fewest rate of the six; Singapore had the highest at 93.1%, followed by South Korea at 88.7%, UK at 80%, and France at 71.6%, and U.S. at 69.6% in the U.S. On the other hand, Japan had the highest percentage of regular mobile phone owners with 28.7%. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
App hopes to help those seeking a way out of China's overstrained public health system.
updated 8:20 PM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
Yards from pro-democracy protests, stands the Hong Kong garrison of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), China's armed forces.
ADVERTISEMENT