Occupy Central

Organiser of Occupy Central poll hopes international media will put pressure on Beijing

Occupy Central organiser encouraged by wide international coverage of plebiscite, and he expects more global attention for July 1 march

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 June, 2014, 5:41am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 June, 2014, 10:50am

An organiser of Occupy Central is hoping that extensive international media coverage of its unofficial referendum on political reform will put pressure on Beijing to implement genuine democracy in the city.

Heavyweight newspapers, magazines and websites - including The Financial Times, The New York Times and The Economist - have reported on the 10-day plebiscite, which ends today.

Many used the vote, which gauges views on how the chief executive should be elected in 2017, as a starting point to examine the city's future and its relations with Beijing.

"Coverage by international media on this scale has rarely been seen since the July 1 rally in 2003," said Dr Chan Kin-man, referring to the 500,000-strong march that forced the shelving of controversial national security legislation.

Chan said overseas media had been impressed by the unexpectedly high turnout - which hit 760,000 yesterday. They were also interested in the nature of the unofficial poll, massive cyberattacks on the electronic voting system and the aggressive response of state media.

Reports from Beijing mouthpieces such as the Global Times and People's Daily have pulled no punches in condemning the vote, describing it as an "illegal farce" that was "tinged with mincing ludicrousness".

"Beijing's mouthpieces have been saying that the turnout for our poll is 'no match' for China's population of 1.3 billion," the Chinese University sociologist said. "We hope Beijing understands that the whole world - which has a population of more than 1.3 billion - is watching how the mainland deals with 'one country, two systems' and Hongkongers' call for democracy."

He predicted more media attention for Tuesday's July 1 pro-democracy rally.

Chan said there had been more cyberattacks, with attempts to steal passwords.

The vote will decide which of three models for the chief executive election Occupy will back. Chan hopes turnout can edge above 800,000 today, when 21 polling stations will open until 10pm. Occupy hopes to give preliminary results at 11pm.

Meanwhile, a group of ethnic minority residents, backed by the NGO Unison, urged non-Chinese residents to vote today.

"Everything that is going to affect Hongkongers is going to affect us too. And this is why we vote," said Phillip Khan, 51, of Pakistani decent, who was born and raised in the city.

As well as choosing a model for reform, voters are being asked whether lawmakers should veto electoral reforms that fail to meet standards for democracy as set down by the United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The government is expected to come up with a reform proposal later this year. Occupy has pledged to rally 10,000 activists to blockade Central streets if the government fails to come up with a reform plan that meets international standards.