LIVE: Beijing officials explain controversial NPC decision on 2017 reform
Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei is this morning making a speech to explain Beijing’s decision on the 2017 election of the chief executive.
Other Beijing officials speaking at the briefing include vice-chairman of the NPC Standing Committee's legislative affairs commission, Zhang Rongshun, and the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Office deputy director Feng Wei.
Around 1,000 people – including legislators, district council chairmen and vice-chairmen, local deputies to the NPC and members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference – have been invited to the two-hour session at AsiaWorld-Expo.
Watch: Protesters and lawmakers react to Beijing's dictum on leadership reform
1.20pm: Reaction to the NPC's report has been mixed today. Former chief secretary Anson Chan has called on Hongkongers to reject Beijing's electoral framework - although said she would not join the Occupy Central camaign - while a spokesman for Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing, quoted him as saying "the city must move forward when it comes to political developments".
That's all for today's live report. Stay tuned to scmp.com for all the latest developments relating to Hong Kong's electoral reform.
12.25pm: Most of the protesters have dispersed, leaving government officials to hand out leaflets urging Hongkongers to "pocket" the reform proposal and secure "one man, one vote" in 2017.
12.19pm: And that's it - the forum has ended. Carrie Lam thanks Beijing officials for travelling to Hong Kong, reiterating that implementing universal suffrage by 2017 would be a historical step in the city's democratic development.
So, will anyone have been convinced by Beijing's arguments?
Delegates now have to get out of the building and face the protesters still outside...
12.12pm: Voters would be "confused" if there were too many candidates to choose from, Li says, as he addresses a cap on the number of candidates allowed to go to the polls.
"People may not know what they advocate and what they have achieved before," he says. He cites elections in the UK and Japan as examples of systems used where parties screen out unsuitable candidates.
12.10pm: Li Fei reiterated the nominating committee must be modelled on the composition of previous 1,200-strong election committee as he addressed the second round of floor questions. “The size of the committee could not be changed; the four sectors [within the committee] could also not be changed,” he said.
He said the decision by NPCSC had formed the framework of the 2017 chief executive election which contains elements that should not be missed in the final reform package submitted by the local government to the legislature later this year. But Li said the way in electing nominating committee members under different sub-sectors are still open for discussion.
11.59am: The NPC has decided that "universal suffrage can be implemented after 2017" says Li, adding that Legco now holds the key to its implementation. If the reform is vetoed, he says, the election method will remain unchanged, as that in 2012. In that instance reform in time for the 2022 election would depend on whether a consensus can be reached.
11.52am: Li Fei denies there is any unreasonable limitation on aspiring candidates, noting that there are usually two or three candidates running for the top post from across the political spectrum. "Every aspirant could run in the race after securing enough nominations," he said - as long as they can obtain majority support from the nominating committee.
11.46am: The floor is given over to a Q&A session. Raymond Tam reads out three questions - on whether the Beijing framework has any unreasonable limitations on a citizen's right to being elected; whether universal suffrage in Legco could be implemented without universal suffrage for the chief executive; and when political reform would be put forward again if the current proposal is vetoed.
Tensions are still high outside. Protesters have left the lobby to wait outside the conference centre, but there they have started arguing with pro-Beijing demonstrators.
HKFS and Scholarism are discussing what course of action to take next.
11.40am: Zhang Rongshun, vice-chairman of the NPC Standing Committee's legislative affairs commission, gives an insight into the mind of Beijing as he defends the decision to hand the power to nominate chief executive hopefuls to a "broadly representative" nominating committee.
He noted there were some opinions in Hong Kong which suggested an overhaul of the nominating committee, but said the chosen method, was “a great political invention” which “full of political wisdom” would solve the difficulties in electing the city’s leader via universal suffrage.
Zhang said as central government enjoyed a substantive power to appoint the chief executive-elect, there could be a constitutional crisis if Beijing refused to appoint the winner picked by Hongkongers via universal suffrage.
“Of course we should minimise the risk in order to maintain the long-term prosperity of Hong Kong,” he said. “Allowing the broadly representative nominating committee to nominate candidates would ensure the runners in the race to be patriotic and could be trusted by central government … the system is meaningful."
11.23am: “Pan-democrats might have different opinions [over reform],” said Feng, but they should not undermine the role of central government on the matter.
“Hong Kong is at its crossroad on reform,” he said. “All sectors should think twice and make the right choice [and] put down its own prejudices and interests to forge consensus.”
11.21: Deputy Director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau office, Feng Wei, has taken to the stage. He said central government had paid close attention and respected the voices in Hong Kong and had made decisions in the best interests of the city in the long run. He said the government had always respected Hongkongers mainstream wishes on universal suffrage.
Feng said a representative system is not the only way to realise democracy in modern society. He said there is a hybrid system that allow various channels for the citizens to participate in political activities - including media, trade unions and professional groups. Therefore, the 38 subsectors in the Election Committee (and future nominating committee) would allow different stakeholders in the society to participate in politics and have their voices heard in public affairs.
11.11am: Li has concluded his speech. In total more than 20 pan democrats were ousted from the hall as they protested.
The two camps appear to have very different ideas of the level of support for Beijing's reform plan. While Li described those opposed to Beijing's plan as a "small group of people seeking to undermine Hong Kong", Democratic Party leader Emily Lai Wai-hing said: "We are here to reflect the anger of millions of Hongkongers who have waited for decades for democracy."
11.03am: "We cannot let our faith waver just because a very small group of people seek to undermine Hong Kong, undermine the Basic Law and undermine 'One Country, Two Systems'," says Li Fei.
He described universal suffrage as a historical milestone in the city's development and called on Hongkongers to implement universal suffrage "under the flag of loving the country and loving Hong Kong".
His speech is interrupted momentarily when Secretary-general of Hong Kong Federation of Students, Alex Chow Yong-kang, one of the invited guests, yells from his seat: “National People’s Congress fails to represent me!”
“Li Fei has reiterated the importance of NPC … but how can it represent Hongkongers? Hongkongers never have the right to elect the delegates to the national legislature,” he protests. “How could the decision by the NPC decide the fate of Hong Kong’s political reform?”
10.57 am: Police have used pepper spray on members of the radical activism group Civic Passion, after a number forced their way through metal barricades and attempted to get into the conference hall. At least four people were sprayed, sparking protests that the officers had used excessive force.
10.51am: Outside the conference hall Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit slammed Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for submitting a "biased" reform consultation report to Beijing, which formed the basis of the NPC's decisions on Hong Kong's future.
“Leung’s report is untruthful, biased and has ignored the voices of pan-democrats. He should not shed his responsibility for constituting today’s impasse. It is ridiculous that he could still manage to laugh [in the past two days],” he said angrily.
Leong called on all ministers and executive councillors who still have their “conscience” to resign in protest against the decision.
Back inside Li has stipulated that Hong Kong is a part of China and that the nation's constitution gives the government the authority to decide upon the territory's political system, election methods and any reforms made.
10.46am: On the 50 per cent threshold (potential candidates must obtain the support of more than half of the nominating committee members to qualify), Li said it is justified in accordance with Basic Law that requires that candidates are selected by "democratic procedures" and reflect the organisational view of the nominating committee. "Requiring the majority support from the nominating committee is a logical arrangement in accordance to the Basic Law," Li said.
He also said the arrangement can reduce the risk of selecting populist candidates - someone who could confront Beijing if elected.
Beijing's decision to allow only two to three candidates to run for the Chief Executive can "on the one hand, guarantee genuine choice for voters and ensure competition in the election. On the other, it prevents the election from becoming too complicated and costly."
He said the electoral method for Legco in 2016 would remain unchanged.
10.35am: Li is continuing to outline the decisions that were made yesterday. To recap:
The framework, approved unanimously by the National People's Congress Standing Committee, allows only two or three candidates to run. They will need approval from a majority of a 1,200-strong nominating committee.
Methods for electing the committee, its composition and size will be "in accordance with" those of the election committee that decided the 2012 poll. It will be divided between four sectors and largely chosen by about 250,000 individual and corporate voters in dozens of subsectors.
10.23am: "Many pan-democrats also love the country and love Hong Kong. As long as they drop their biases, I am sure the Universal Suffrage plan would be passed by Legco," Li says.
Outside the hall a group of five pro-Beijing supporters entered the lobby, shouting 'Support NPC's decision'. Scuffles broke out after one of them attempted to stop Scholarism members from speaking to the press, leading to an argument between pan democrats and the pro-Beijing camp, who are shouting "do not disrupt Hong Kong" and "we demand peace".
10.18am "Standing Committee members deliberated very carefully over the Chief Executive's report, the minutes ran up to 10 thick books," Li Fei tells the conference as he starts tio explain the decision-making process. Hong Kong delegates' deliberation over the Chief Executive's report also ran up to 10 thick books."
Li said the views collected in a series of Shenzhen seminars and the chief executive's report on reform had been thoroughly discussed at the NPC Standing Committee meeting last week.
On Occupy he says: "Standing committee members are highly concerned about Occupy Central. If we give in because some people engaged in illegal activities, that would only bring about more, worse law-breaking behaviour.
"If Occupy Central indeed happens, we believe the SAR government and its well-trained police forces are fully capable of handling it."
10.13am: Calm has descended on the conference hall and proceedings are underway once again.
10.10am: Li Fei's speech has been halted, amid scenes of protest. Democratic lawmakers are marching around the conference hall, with yellow ribbons pinned to their chests, yelling slogans. Many in the audience are applauding the pan democrats. Security are trying their best to contain the protesters.
10.06am: And Long Hair is out! Pan democrats are causing chaos in the hall as Li Fei makes his speech. Several security men dragged Long Hair out of the hall as he held up a small banner, prompting others to follow suit. Pan democrats are on their feet chanting slogans.
10am: Other prominent figures to arrive are Elsie Leung, Rita Fan, Antony Leung Kam-Chung and Occupy co-founders Chan Kin-man and Rev Chu Yiu-Ming. Benny Tai has also been invited but is not able to attend because he has to take a class today.
9.53am: Invited guests have been arriving for a short time and protesters are stationed outside. Robert Chow Yung, anti-Occupy campaigner, said the framework is "good enough and acceptable" because it allows two- or three-horse race. He said it is similar to the UK system, although acknowledged the "slight difference" that the UK system is political party-based. League of social democrat lawmaker "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung is able to enter the hall alongside with other pan-democrats. Will he behave himself?
NPC Deputy Maria Tam Wai-chu and lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun are surrounded by a few dozen protesters as they arrive at the lobby and undergo a security check. The protestors shout "traitors" and "shame on you".
9.50am: Good morning and welcome to scmp.com's live coverage of this morning's events surrounding electoral reform in 2017. Last night thousands of people took to the streets to protest Beijing's decision on the future of Hong Kong. We are expecting Li Fei to arrive at AsiaWorld-Expo any minute, where he is due to explain how the NPC made its decisions.