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Some 800,000 vote in Hong Kong polls referendum
Publication Date : 30-06-2014
Nearly 800,000 Hong Kongers voted in an unofficial referendum to choose their desired model of democracy, thumbing their noses at Beijing which has branded it as "illegal and a farce".
Over the past 10 days, they flocked to polling centres and the voting website, driven by a desire for what organisers call "genuine democracy" and anger at a recent White Paper by Beijing that appears to signal a tightening grip on the city.
Preliminary counts of electronic ballots cast in the poll ending last night showed that the most popular of three options is that offered by the Alliance for True Democracy, a coalition of pan-democrat legislators, with 40 per cent opting for it. This proposes that chief executive candidates be nominated by both the public and political parties.
Meanwhile, 88 per cent of votes counted said that the legislature should veto the government proposal if it "cannot satisfy international standards allowing genuine choices by electors".
A final tally including that of paper ballots will be out today.
The high turnout suggests that Hong Kong is set for an arduous process of negotiating for universal suffrage, or "one man, one vote" rights, to select their leader in 2017.
Speaking on the referendum for the first time, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam said the government will take on board Hong Kongers' participation in the poll as "feedback" while crafting political reform.
But she stressed the government cannot propose something that "deviates" from the Basic Law. The mini-Constitution, she added, states clearly that there has to be a "broadly representative nominating committee" to pre-select candidates to run as Hong Kong's chief executive.
All three proposals in the referendum include an element of public nomination - which both the central and Hong Kong governments have dismissed as not conforming to the Basic Law.
Pro-democracy activists fear the "nominating committee" will deprive electors of genuine political choice, given that Beijing has stipulated candidates must "love Hong Kong" and "love China" - which many take to mean a supporter of the Communist Party.
To add pressure on the authorities, organisers of the poll are threatening a peaceful Occupy Central civil disobedience movement to debilitate the financial district by occupying its main roads, if the government does not come up with a proposal that satisfies "what people want". Though they have said there are no plans for this as yet, fears are that radical elements may stage a sit-in when the city goes on its annual protest march tomorrow.
As the poll wound down yesterday, pro-Beijing groups sought to show that they have public support on their side as well, with a group called Caring Hong Kong Power marching to the police headquarters with a petition with 30,000 signatures.
"What we have is not electronic 'boasting', but real signatures," said one marcher, referring to charges of voting fraud in the referendum.
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