Lawmakers Heckle Hong Kong Chief Over Political Reform Plan

china-leung-chun-ying-march-2015.jpg Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (C) is escorted by members of security as he meets visitors at the annual open day for the Government House in Hong Kong, March 15, 2015.

Hong Kong lawmakers made references to North Korea and called out "Debate! Debate!" as the city's chief executive Leung Chun-ying said any changes to the territory's electoral system must stay within its approved framework laid down by China's National People's Congress (NPC) on Aug. 31.

"We need to [make electoral arrangements] based on the ... decision of the NPC," Leung told the Legislative Council (LegCo) in a question and answer session.

"The pan-democratic lawmakers have asked that Beijing withdraw the Aug. 31 decision as a basis for debate, but the NPC has said it won't do that," Leung said.

"Therefore, there is no basis for debate."

Pan-democratic lawmakers have vowed to veto any government bill based on the controversial ruling by China's parliament that sparked more than two months of pro-democracy protests and the occupation of major highways.

Leung called on pan-democratic lawmakers, who hold 24 out of 60 seats in LegCo, to reconsider their pledge to veto the reform package, however.

Last year's Occupy Central protests blocked major highways and intersections in downtown Hong Kong for 79 days, in a bid to win universal suffrage with no interference from Beijing.

But the NPC standing committee ruled that while all five million of Hong Kong's voters will cast ballots in 2017 elections for chief executive, they will only be able to choose between two or three candidates pre-selected by Beijing.

Occupy protesters and pan-democratic politicians, who won 54 percent of the popular vote in the last legislative elections, have dismissed the proposed reform package as "fake universal suffrage."

Protests swelled to hundreds of thousands at their peak after an initial bid to clear the area of umbrella-toting protesters by police wielding tear-gas and pepper spray failed.

But Leung warned on Wednesday that additional mass protests would not win further sympathy from Hong Kong people.

"I can say that the public, if Occupy happens again, will not be sympathetic," Leung told delegates to an investment conference in the city, added that the Chinese government had "confidence" in Hong Kong's handling of the protests.

"Throughout the Occupy movement ... the Hong Kong garrison of the Chinese People's Liberation Army was never called out from their barracks," Leung said.

"It was a reassuring sign on the part of the central government of the faith and confidence in the Hong Kong government and its police force."

Leung heckled

Back in LegCo, Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong questioned Leung on his comments.

"Mr. 689," Wong began, using a derogatory nickname for Leung based on the number of votes he won when he was elected in 2010.

"Yesterday, you called on voters to kick out  pan-democratic lawmakers at the ballot box, making comments about the outcome of a democratic election," Wong said.

"We will respect the choice of voters, but you have, [during your time] in office, reduced Hong Kong to an appalling state and divided society."

"You have had 200,000 people take to the streets, and the relationship between the executive and the legislature is in real difficulties," she said.

"You bring shame on Hong Kong, and I don't know if you realize it, but most Hong Kong people would like to see you leave office as soon as possible."

Meanwhile, Civic Party leader Alan Leong said Leung would fail a politics exam, and challenged him to a televised debate on political reform on behalf of the pan-democrats.

"It is ridiculous to say that all elections based on laws are necessarily democratic," Leong said. "What about North Korea?"

"Under such twisted logic, Kim Jong Un was also elected by universal suffrage."

Leong added: "If [the chief executive] actually agreed to debate this on television, then the people of Hong Kong would see clearly that ... waiting a while longer in fact means waiting their whole lives [for democracy]."

'Fake universal suffrage'

A protester surnamed Wong outside the LegCo building on Thursday said Leung was out of touch with public sentiment, however.

"C.Y. Leung has no strong basis of public support," Wong said. "He was chosen to be chief executive by a closed circle of cronies."

"I don't think he gets to decide whether or not the pan-democrats get voted out at the next election."

Wong added: "Hong Kong people support democracy, and they won't pay any attention to what C.Y. Leung says."

A recent opinion poll carried out by the University of Hong Kong showed that 41 percent of respondents agreed with the view that the Aug. 31 framework amounts to "fake universal suffrage."

But many who took part in the "Umbrella Movement," which saw hundreds of thousands pour onto Hong Kong's streets at its height, said they aren't just fighting for public nominations, but against the steady erosion of the city's core values and freedoms, citing a slew of violent attacks on outspoken Hong Kong journalists in recent years.

Chinese officials have since expressed concern over the lack of "patriotism" among Hong Kong's young people, renewing calls for Communist Party-approved citizenship study in the city's schools, which was rejected following mass protests in 2012.

Under the terms of the 1997 handover from Britain to China, Hong Kong was promised a "high degree of autonomy" and the preservation of traditional freedoms of speech and association for 50 years.

Reported by Dai Weisen for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Xin Lin for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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