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China rules out open Hong Kong chief executive poll

Posted on Aug 31 2014 | IANS

Hong Kong, Aug 31 : Chinese authorities have ruled out open nominations for elections to choose Hong Kong's leader and now two to three candidates will be nominated by a "broadly representative" committee, BBC reported Sunday.

The decision, expected to limit the selection of candidates to pro-Beijing figures, has prompted the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement to launch a sit-in in the city's central business district in protest.

The election for Hong Kong's chief executive is due in 2017 and will be the first time the holder of the post is directly chosen by voters.

While the election would represent "historic progress", "the sovereignty, security and development interests of the country are at stake", and therefore "there is a need to proceed in a prudent and steady manner", the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress said announcing its decision.

Condemning the decision, the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement said it has "dashed people's hopes for change and will intensify conflicts in the society".

"We are very sorry to say that today all chances of dialogue have been exhausted and the occupation of Central will definitely happen," the group said.

The decision from Beijing has come amid a huge debate in Hong Kong over its relationship with the mainland.

In June, almost 800,000 people cast ballots in an informal referendum organised by Occupy Central on how the chief executive should be chosen. It was followed by large-scale rallies held by both sides.

Hong Kong, a former British colony now governed by China under the principle of "one country, two systems", has retained wide legal and economic powers since being handed back to China in 1997.

On Saturday, China had warned foreign countries against "meddling" in Hong Kong's politics, with an article in a state-run newspaper accusing some in Hong Kong of "colluding" with unnamed "outside forces".

Meanwhile, a pro-Beijing leader of the neighbouring territory of Macau was also re-elected unopposed Sunday by an election committee composed mostly of Beijing loyalists.

A small group of pro-democracy activists protested outside the venue, saying the election would be meaningful only if all citizens could have a say.

Over 90 percent of the voters who responded to a week-long unofficial referendum on the city's political future said they wanted to directly elect their leader.

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