Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997, has been roiled
over the past year over how its next leader is chosen in 2017 - by
universal suffrage, as the democrats would like, or from a list of
A so-called Occupy Central campaign of civil disobedience has
threatened to blockade Hong Kong's Central business district if
Beijing doesn't allow open nominations, rather than pre-screening
candidates and restricting the poll to pro-Beijing "patriots" and
those who "love China".
Thursday's meeting just over the Hong Kong border in Shenzhen was
seen as a last chance to narrow differences ahead of a parliamentary
meeting in Beijing next week that will formally lay out Beijing's
position on the 2017 poll.
While both sides said the dialogue was sincere and encouraging,
there was little sign of compromise.
Li Fei, the chairman of China's Basic Law Committee who met the Hong
Kong lawmakers, reiterated the Basic Law, or Hong Kong's
mini-constitution, made no allowance for open nominations.
"We will also not allow public nomination of chief executive
candidates, occupying central and other related crimes. This remains
one of the biggest arguments in Hong Kong today," he told reporters
in a luxury hotel where the talks were held.
Hong Kong returned to China's rule under a principle of "one
country, two systems" allowing it broad autonomy and far more
freedom of speech, assembly and religion than exists on the
mainland. But China has made it plain that Beijing's sovereignty
cannot be questioned.
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Helena Wong, a democratic party lawmaker, said Beijing must allow
"true full democracy, not fake democracy". The democrats also handed
out copies of a report reflecting public demands for a fair election
including opposition candidates, after an unofficial referendum last
month that drew more than 800,000 votes.
Some 26 pro-democracy lawmakers recently pledged in a declaration to
veto any "unfair" reform plan that does not meet international
standards. Any electoral reform proposal must garner the support of
at least two-thirds of the city's 70-member legislature in order to
pass, as well as being ultimately approved by Beijing.
"Time is already running short and the opportunity for discussion is
precious and hard to come by. This is the last chance for open
communication," Rita Fan, a Hong Kong delegate to China's
parliament, said after meeting the Chinese officials.
Chinese officials and Hong Kong businesses have warned any shutdown
of the city's financial district could damage Hong Kong's economy
(Additional reporting by Diana Chan; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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