Bid for compromise on Hong Kong electoral reform package fails, pan-democrats warned on 'loyalty'
Beijing officials stand firm on 2017 poll and say strict framework for Hong Kong's democratic reform will stay even if lawmakers reject plan
How lawmakers vote on the reform package for the 2017 chief executive election will show who is loyal to "one country, two systems", and pan-democrats will face dire consequences should they vote down the blueprint, top mainland officials overseeing Hong Kong affairs warned yesterday.
Refusing to offer any concessions over the government's package, Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei made it clear that Beijing's framework for electoral reform, which pan-democrats say would in effect rule out candidates of differing political backgrounds, would stay for good even it were blocked this time.
Li said the decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on August 31 last year "has the supreme and undoubtable legal [authority]. It was also very clear that this decision was not specified for 2017 [alone] but starting from 2017, all chief executive elections under universal suffrage will have to follow it".
He made the remarks after a four-hour meeting with lawmakers that was regarded as a last-ditch bid to reach an agreement on reform ahead of the legislature's vote later this month.
The talks proved fruitless, as pro-democracy lawmakers said at the end of the meeting that they would stick to their guns and vote against the package.
"After the four-hour meeting, we are left with an unequivocal conclusion that the central government is not going to yield one iota," said Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit. "We are therefore left with no choice but to reject the government proposal."
All 27 pan-democratic lawmakers have vowed to vote down the government package, which stipulates that only two or three hopefuls who secure majority support from a 1,200-strong nominating committee can run for the top job.
"I am afraid that it might not be an empty threat for … some people to say that [pan-democrats] will pay the debt with their votes," he said.
Wang Guangya, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, reassured legislators that he hoped to have more opportunities to communicate with the majority of pan-democrats, whom he described as "friends". But Wang attacked what he called a handful of "stubborn" pan-democrats. He accused them of using the term "democracy" to conceal their view of Hong Kong as an independent political entity.
"We cannot see these people who confront the central government and undermine 'one country, two systems' being elected, because that would be a catastrophe for the country, Hong Kong and 'one country, two systems'."
Information technology sector lawmaker Charles Mok said the officials had quickly dismissed every counter-proposal, such as introducing a none-of-the-above option for voters and abolishing corporate voting in the nominating committee.
"They could have given us some vague promise that the reform plan could be amended beyond 2017, but they simply decided not to," Mok said. "They have been very frank in the talks."
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said he would continue to lobby lawmakers for support but would not postpone the vote.