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China media slams HK ballot

UNOFFICIAL POLL: Voters at a polling station in Hong Kong on Sunday.


    Jul 01, 2014

    China media slams HK ballot


    ORGANISERS yesterday urged Hong Kong's government to take seriously an unofficial referendum on democratic reform after nearly 800,000 people voted in the city.

    But state media in Beijing dismissed the ballot as unpatriotic.

    The poll, organised by pro-democracy activists that closed late on Sunday, saw more than 780,000 people voting on how Hong Kong's next leader should be chosen, days before a planned massive protest for greater democracy in the semi-autonomous city.

    Some 88 per cent urged the city's lawmakers to veto any political reforms that do not meet "international standards".

    The number of voters represents almost a quarter of the 3.47 million registered voters in 2012, in a city of 7.2 million.

    "The Hong Kong government should take seriously the views of nearly 800,000 citizens," referendum organiser Benny Tai told a radio programme yesterday.

    The ballot was organised by a group called Occupy Central, which threatens a mass sit-in in the Central Business District later this year unless the authorities come up with acceptable electoral reforms.

    Chinese state media slammed the referendum as unpatriotic and driven by "political paranoia", while the government of the former British colony said it "respected" the people's views.

    The Global Times, which is linked to China's ruling Communist Party, said in an editorial: "The basic political requirement for Hong Kong's chief executives is that they must love both the country and Hong Kong. The opposition has refused to accept this requirement.

    "Some people have become frenzied. They seem civilised and rational, but their political paranoia is about to light a fuse."

    China Daily called the poll an "unconstitutional political charade" and accused the United States of funding its organisers.

    "The US government has repeatedly expressed unconditional support for this poll, in addition to funding illegal activities in Hong Kong through various 'private' channels," it said without giving details.

    Beijing has promised to let Hong Kong residents elect their next chief executive in 2017, but has ruled out giving voters a say in selecting candidates.

    This has fuelled fears among democracy advocates that only those sympathetic to Beijing will be allowed to stand.

    The chief executive is currently selected by a 1,200-strong pro-Beijing committee.

    "We respect the right of the people to express their views and we also understand that there are different views in society," said a Hong Kong government statement on Sunday.

    The referendum, partly online and partly at physical ballot boxes, offered voters three options on how candidates for the leader's post should be chosen.

    Each would allow voters to propose candidates for the top job. All are therefore considered unacceptable by China and the Hong Kong government, which say a nominating committee must pick candidates under the terms of the city's mini-Constitution.

    The winning proposal, offered by the Alliance for True Democracy, would allow the public or democratically elected lawmakers to nominate candidates.