الثلاثاء , مايو 18 2021

Final day of Hong Kong 'referendum'

People wait to vote at a polling station in Hong Kong. Photo: 29 June 2014More than 700,000 people are reported to have voted already

Hong Kong is voting on the final day of an unofficial referendum on universal suffrage in the Chinese territory.

The 10-day poll is organised by protest group Occupy Central, which says more than 700,000 have already voted online or in person.

A Hong Kong government spokesman has said the vote has no legal standing.

Campaigners want the former British colony to be able to elect their leader, or the chief executive. China has pledged direct elections by 2017.

However, voters will only have a choice from a list of candidates selected by a nominating committee, and China’s communist authorities have said all candidates must be “patriotic”.

The voting in polling stations or on popvote.hk website began on 20 June. The deadline was originally set at 22 June, but was later extended after what organised claimed were several cyber attacks on the website.

Demonstrators supporting the Occupy Central movement display placards asking residents to cast ballotsDemonstrators have been urging residents to vote in the unofficial poll

Popvote.hk was designed by the University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Polytechnic University to measure support for Occupy Central’s campaign.

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Analysis: Juliana Liu, BBC News, Hong Kong

The organisers behind the unofficial referendum have added nine more polling stations on the last day of the exercise in the hope of reaching more voters, especially the elderly or those living in Hong Kong’s outlying islands.

The University of Hong Kong polling firm that oversees the vote says nearly 760,000 votes have been received. But more than 50,000 seem to be repeat votes, and were eliminated as a result.

The vote is not legally binding. Still, the large turnout, in a city with just 3.5 million registered voters, sends a strong message that a significant part of the Hong Kong public is unhappy with the Chinese government’s plans for reform.

Beijing has criticised the referendum. Official disapproval seems to have spurred more voters to take part.

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In the referendum, voters have the choice of three proposals – all of which involve allowing citizens to directly nominate Hong Kong’s chief executive – to present to the Beijing government.

Pro-democracy activists want the public to nominate the candidates.

But Chinese leaders believe this is illegal and would like to see a committee decide who is on that public ballot, effectively limiting the candidate field to those approved by the authorities in Beijing.

The vote is seen as a prelude to a campaign of dissent that could shut down Hong Kong’s financial district, the BBC’s Juliana Liu in Hong Kong reports.

Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997 following a 1984 agreement between China and Britain.

China agreed to govern Hong Kong under the principle of “one country, two systems”, where the city would enjoy “a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs” for 50 years.

As a result, Hong Kong has its own legal system, and rights including freedom of assembly and free speech are protected.

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