'Referendum' voters back greater public voice in 2017 elections

94pc of 'referendum' participants call for voice in nominating candidates for chief executive election but march turnout lower than expected

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 January, 2014, 2:59am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 January, 2014, 10:04am

Tens of thousands of Hongkongers voted overwhelmingly for more public participation in the 2017 chief executive election in a "civil referendum" on political reform - though turnout at the New Year's Day pro-democracy march disappointed organisers.

The march ended with speeches from Occupy Central organisers, who urged the crowd to lie down to practice how they would react if approached by police should the movement unleash its civil disobedience plan in summer.

Watch: Hongkongers march for “genuine” universal suffrage in the 2017

Meanwhile, scores of radicals who said Occupy was too moderate tried to block streets.

Some 62,000 people voted online or at a packed polling station in Victoria Park in a poll organised by the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement, raising questions on electoral reform.

Organisers of the march, from Victoria Park to Chater Garden, put the number of participants at 30,000 - police said there were 11,000. Last year, organiser the Civil Human Rights Front put the turnout for the January 1 march at 130,000, while police said there were 26,000 marchers.

Lau Siu-kai, a former head of the government's Central Policy Unit think tank, said the lower turnout for the march indicated that some issues sparking discontent had faded from view.

"But other indicators like opinion polls have shown growing discontent … and rising aspirations for universal suffrage," he said. "The government has no room for complacency."

The front's convenor, Yeung Ching-yin, said the turnout was lower than expected, but he believed it "illustrated that some people think marching is not enough to express anger ..."

Government supporters also demonstrated and the Voice of Loving Hong Kong attracted 150 people to a rally in Admiralty.

The "referendum" saw 94 per cent of voters demand the public have a say in nominating candidates for chief executive, while 91 per cent voted against a "filter" mechanism for candidates.

Dr Chan Kin-man, an Occupy organiser, said it reflected "fervent support" for public nomination.

Meanwhile, the chief executive said on his blog he wanted to go down in history for introducing universal suffrage.

He told children visiting Government House he "hoped that in future history books, it will be mentioned that 'universal suffrage was introduced in the chief executive election for the first time during Leung Chun-ying's tenure'."

Watch: Thousands join virtual vote on universal suffrage in Hong Kong