Six months after the protests that paralyzed parts of Hong Kong for weeks, lawmakers here are set to reject the proposal that triggered the demonstrations, intending to vote down a plan vetted in Beijing that would change the way this former British colony selects its top official. Barring last-minute changes of heart by a handful of representatives, backers and opponents alike say the local government lacks the votes to secure passage of the proposal, which would allow all of Hong Kong’s registered voters to pick the chief executive from a slate of up to three candidates chosen by a panel dominated by Beijing loyalists. If the measure is defeated, Hong Kong will keep its current system, in which a small, elite group of about 1,200 selects the chief executive. Any future efforts to expand the franchise would be put in limbo.
The vote this week bookends the most momentous year in Hong Kong politics since China regained sovereignty in 1997, under the “one country, two systems” arrangement that allows the city’s 7.2 million residents to largely run their own affairs, keeping their British-inherited legal system and civil liberties while flying the flag of the People’s Republic of China.
Opposition to the election proposal, which follows strict guidelines laid down last August by China’s Communist Party-controlled National People’s Congress, exploded onto Hong Kong’s streets late last year, with tens of thousands of demonstrators staging sit-in protests that shut down some major arteries in Asia’s most important financial hub for more than two months.