The national legislature will not change its controversial draft framework for Hong Kong’s political reform in the wake of criticism, a deputy to the body says.
Cheng Yiu-tong said no amendments could be made to the framework that will form the basis of the Hong Kong government's plan for the 2017 chief executive election, which will be reviewed by the public before the end of the year.
On Wednesday, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress agreed a draft set of restrictions for the election.
The key points include limiting the number of candidates to two or three, limiting the committee that will select candidates to 1,200 members and requiring hopefuls for the top job to get the backing of at least half the committee’s members to get on the ballot paper.
Pan-democrats called the framework “unacceptable” and lawmakers vowed to veto the Hong Kong government’s plan if it contained the same restrictions.
The official reform plan will need two-thirds support from lawmakers to be approved, meaning the government needs the votes of at least five pan-democrat lawmakers.
Cheng, speaking after more group discussions in Beijing on Thursday, said it was “impossible” for the standing committee to change the draft framework in response to criticism.
“I think the [possibility for] amendment is not high – it’s almost zero. Because usually, when the standing committee make the [initial] decision and its members have strong expectations [for its approval], I can’t see any possibility for making changes,” Cheng said.
Pan-democrats fear that a nominating committee stacked with Beijing loyalists will screen out potential candidates that the central government does not want on the ballot.
They say that only an election in which Hongkongers have a genuine choice of candidates will be able to solve the city’s governance crisis.
Cheng rejected the suggestion that the standing committee was a “rubber stamp” legislature tasked with waving through the central government’s demands.
He said the current gulf between the pan-democrat and pro-Beijing camps reflected the “stubbornness” of Occupy Central organisers.
Occupy plans to stage a mass sit-in on Central streets if the Hong Kong government’s plan fails to deliver genuine choice, and will begin a “long-term” civil disobedience campaign on Sunday.
Some lawmakers have pledged to join the Occupy protests.
The stringency of the draft decision, especially the rule that the nominating committee should consist of 1,200 members – the same as the election committee that chose Leung Chun-ying in 2012 – appeared to have gone further than local NPC deputies’ original expectations.
And information-technology sector lawmaker Charles Mok, seen as one of the main targets of the government’s lobbying, said he could not see any room for further negotiation.
“I don’t know what else can be discussed in the second round of consultation. Beijing has taken the Hong Kong government’s role to decide the reform proposal,” Mok said on Wednesday.
Speaking in Hong Kong, former Basic Law Committee member Wang Zhenmin called on Hong Kong people to accept the proposal, as “an imperfect universal suffrage [plan] can be improved in future”.
Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said: “The Democratic Party must veto the reform if it turns out to be the proposal tabled in Legco.”