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Hong Kong vetoes China-backed electoral proposal
[HONG KONG] Hong Kong's legislature on Thursday vetoed a China-vetted electoral reform package that had been criticised by opposition pro-democracy lawmakers and activists as flawed and undemocratic.
Hundreds of Beijing supporters had converged outside government buildings as city legislators voted on the Beijing-backed electoral package that aimed to define the Chinese-controlled city's democratic future.
The vote happened earlier than expected, with only 37 of the legislature's 70 legislators present. Of these, 28 lawmakers voted against the blueprint and 8 voted in favour, while one did not cast their vote.
Moments before the ballot, a large number of pro-establishment and pro-Beijing lawmakers suddenly walked out of the chamber.
The no vote had been expected and will likely appease some pro-democracy activists who had demanded a veto of what they call a "fake" democratic model for how Hong Kong chooses its next leader in 2017. "This veto has helped Hong Kong people send a clear message to Beijing...that we want a genuine choice, a real election," said pan-democratic lawmaker Alan Leong. "This is not the end of the democratic movement," he said. "This is a new beginning."
There have been fears that a veto would lead to fresh unrest on Hong Kong streets between pro-democracy activists and Beijing supporters.
Mainland Chinese media warned that a veto of the proposal could pose a threat to the financial centre.
Weeks of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong late last year posed one of the biggest challenge in years for China's ruling Communist Party.
The reform proposal, laid out by the central government in Beijing last August and supported by Hong Kong's pro-Beijing leadership, would have allowed a direct vote for the city's next leader but with only pre-screened, pro-Beijing candidates on the ballot.
Opponents want a genuinely democratic election in line with Beijing's promise of universal suffrage made when the territory returned to Chinese rule in 1997.