A 10-day unofficial pro-democracy referendum opened in Hong Kong on June 20, attracting higher-than-expected turnout and angering China’s central government in Beijing. Organized by pro-democracy group Occupy Central, the referendum offers voters a choice of three reform plans for the election of Hong Kong’s chief executive, all of which include public nomination of candidates, an idea rejected by Beijing. Despite massive cyberattacks blamed on mainland China, more than 700,000 online and in-person voters cast ballots in the first three days of voting. Beijing, as expected, was deeply displeased. Chinese state-run media attacked the referendum as an “illegal farce” that is “tinged with mincing ludicrousness.” Chinese media, officials in Beijing, and pro-Beijing officials in Hong Kong have been unrelenting in their efforts to discredit the referendum process, calling it “invalid” and raising suspicions of an “inflated turnout due to the flawed online voting system.” Chen Zuo’er, former deputy director of China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said that the referendum was not a valid indicator of how Hong Kong residents wanted to elect their chief executive. “The media have reported that there are dishonest elements during the process of conducting the public vote, which will result in its failure to truly reflect public opinion,” said Chen, without elaborating on these claims.
Predictably, Chinese media also accused the West of stirring up trouble in Hong Kong. “The opposition groups and their overseas supporters have overestimated the effect of an illegal farce,” said an editorial in the state-run Global Times. “Western media claims that China’s central government is facing enormous pressure from the international community because of this poll. However, the West has kept imposing political pressure on Beijing every year. And they will still make waves even if Hong Kong is tranquil.”
Predictably also, Beijing put on its confident face and insisted that the results of the referendum would be irrelevant. “Neither China’s central government nor the Hong Kong government will admit the results of the poll,” said the Global Times. “Hong Kong’s opposition groups will find their efforts to convince most of the electorate to be in vain. Even if they can deceive more than half of Hongkongers, Beijing will never compromise on sovereignty-related issues.”
News and online discussion on the referendum in Hong Kong were aggressively censored in mainland China. Censorship instructions issued by the government ordered media outlets to “find and delete all news related to the 6/22 Hong Kong referendum, thoroughly clean up related comments … forcibly cancel blogs and microblog posts reprinting harmful information … [and] ensure that no information related to the referendum appears online.” The Guangdong Province neighboring Hong Kong was further ordered “to cut signal on all programs from Hong Kong television stations.”
Full Article: Hong Kong Democracy Poll Puts Beijing in a Corner – US News.