CHINA TOPIX

Updated 10:35 AM EDT, Thu, Apr 18, 2019

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After the Failure of Pro-Beijing Democratic Proposal, What's Next for Hong Kong?

Hong Kong Electoral Proposal

(Photo : Reuters/Bobby Yip) Aerial view of Hong Kong's Legislative Council. Pro-democracy lawmakers have vetoed a widely debated electoral bill after pro-Beijing lawmakers, who supported the bill, staged a walkout from the house and failed to prevent the vote.

Pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong's legislature have voted against a proposed electoral reform - backed by Beijing - that would have allowed voters to appoint their next Chief Executive and Legislative Council. Last year, thousands of protesters thronged to the streets to express their disapproval for the electoral proposal, but China's government did not make any concessions. Now, shortly after lawmakers in Hong Kong vetoed the bill, the National People's Congress (NPC) has declared that it will continue to uphold the proposal as the road-map to universal suffrage in the island.

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According to Xinhua, a statement from the NPC said that the electoral reform will "remain in force in the future," adding that "its legal force is unquestionable."

Pro-Beijing lawmakers have indicated that they plan to hold pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong's legislature responsible for the fact that the country has not adopted universal suffrage. The State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs spokesman has said that pro-democracy lawmakers will "bear historical responsibility" for the failure of the country to select its own leaders. 

The Wall Street Journal quotes a pro-democracy lawmaker Alan Leong explaning the significance of the vote against the  bill he described as a "fake universal suffrage proposal."

"We helped Hong Kong people send a clear message to Beijing that we want real choice," he said.

As it stands, Hong Kong's next chief executive will be selected by the pro-Beijing 1,200-member Electoral Committee as it was done in the past. Under the rejected electoral proposal, voters would have had a chance to make a choice on who becomes the next chief executive - after a few shortlisted candidates have been approved by a majority of the members of a nominating committee. 

Pro-democracy critics of the bill in Hong Kong, however, argue that the nominating committee would be filled with pro-Beijing members, ensuring that only candidates who have been approved by China will run for office.

Hong Kong protesters have been able to force the government to make concessions in the past, but it remains to be seen if China will budge on this bill.

Experts say Hong-Kong's pro-democracy supporters have an uphill battle to wage. At the moment, the Legislative Council of Hong Kong is made up of about 43 pro-Beijing lawmakers and only 27 pro-democracy lawmakers. Shangaiist reports that Hong Kong's pro-democracy lawmakers may have been successful in stopping this bill because pro-Beijing legislators attempted to prevent a quorum by staging a walk-out. A statement from the office of the central government of Hong Kong, which expressed disapproval about the outcome of the debate, noted that the majority of the citizens of Hong Kong were also disappointed at the vote.

A lot of things remain unclear about the future of Hong Kong, but what is certain is that both sides have a difficult task ahead as they try to impose their will on one another.

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