World Bulletin / News Desk
Hong Kong's lawmakers appeared to be standing firm on Wednesday in their pledge to veto a Beijing-backed electoral reform plan, as the Asian financial centre's legislature debated the package that will define its democratic future.
The former British colony has reinforced security after mass protests crippled parts of the city late last year, presenting China's ruling Communist Party with one of its biggest political challenges in decades.
Hundreds of people converged outside government buildings as debate began on a blueprint that would allow a direct vote for Hong Kong's next leader in 2017, but only from pre-screened, pro-Beijing candidates. Opponents say they want a genuinely democratic election for the city's chief executive.
The Legislative Council issued an "amber alert" before the crucial vote on the reform package, which is expected by Friday.
Hong Kong's 27 "pan-democrats", who hold a crucial one-third veto bloc in the 70-seat Legislative Council, have vowed to oppose what they call a "fake" democratic model. Three democrats who spoke early during the debate reiterated that pledge.
If the reform proposal is passed unexpectedly, pro-democracy groups have vowed to protest. By late afternoon just 13 lawmakers had spoken.
"This morning I got a very long and well-written letter, which was from a student. (They) hope I will support the proposal," democrat Ronny Tong, who was close to tears, told reporters before the debate began.
"I cannot think of anyone in Hong Kong who is happy today. I have been a legislator for 11 years, with an aim to fight for universal suffrage. Today I will cast a negative vote for an incomplete and unsatisfactory political reform proposal."
Last year's protests revealed sharp divisions between Hong Kongers, and public opinion on the reforms remains split.
The final round of a rolling poll conducted by three Hong Kong universities showed 47 percent of respondents backed the reform proposal. Thirty-eight percent were against, while 15 percent were undecided.Güncelleme Tarihi: 17 Haziran 2015, 14:08