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China on Sunday ruled out open nominations for electing Hong Kong’s leader in the first direct election slated for 2017.
Instead, authorities announced that candidates fighting the election will be selected through a nomination committee, which will be a “broadly representative” one.
Since it’s handover to China by the British in 1997, Hong Kong has been government by Beijing under the “one country, two systems” concept and its citizens enjoy some special privileges including wide legal autonomy and greater freedom of speech compared to their counterparts on the Mainland.
“The National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee adopted a decision on Sunday that when the selection of the chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrate Region (HKSAR) is implemented by the method of universal suffrage, a broadly representative nominating committee shall be formed,” state-run Xinhua news agency said Sunday.
Pro-democracy activists – who have organised themselves under the Occupy Central movement -- in Hong Kong have staged several protests in recent months complaining that Beijing was undermining the city’s special status.
Activists fear that the nomination committee will ensure that only pro-Beijing candidates will be selected to stand for the election in 2017.
“The nominating committee shall nominate two to three candidates for the office of Chief Executive in accordance with democratic procedure,” the government decision said.
It added that while the election would represent "historic progress", "the sovereignty, security and development interests of the country are at stake," and therefore "there is a need to proceed in a prudent and steady manner".
Criticising the decision, the Occupy Central group said it had “dashed people's hopes for change and will intensify conflicts in the society”.
“We are very sorry to say that today all chances of dialogue have been exhausted and the occupation of Central will definitely happen,” the group was quoted by the BBC as having said.
But the government congratulated itself on the decision.
“The decision is vital for steadily developing democracy in Hong Kong and implementing the selection of the HKSAR Chief Executive by universal suffrage according to law," top Chinese legislator Zhang Dejiang said.
Zhang told the meeting: “It is the central government's consistent and clear stance to support the HKSAR in developing a democratic system in line with the actual conditions of Hong Kong based |on the regulations of the Hong Kong Basic Law.”