Hong Kong lawmakers adopt limited democratic reform

Hong Kong lawmakers agreed on Thursday to enlarge the electoral base for choosing the city`s leader, while stopping well short of one person, one vote for the Chinese territory`s seven million people.

Updated: Jun 24, 2010, 19:24 PM IST

Hong Kong: Hong Kong lawmakers agreed
on Thursday to enlarge the electoral base for choosing the city`s
leader, while stopping well short of one person, one vote for
the Chinese territory`s seven million people.

A split in the pro-democracy opposition allowed
passage of the first part of a package of political reforms,
to expand the Beijing-backed committee that elects the chief
executive from 800 members now to 1,200 in 2012.
Radical legislator "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung
accused moderates in the Democratic Party of betrayal, as
hardliners vowed to settle for nothing less than universal
suffrage in 2012.

"Shameful! Shameful!" Leung shouted, accusing the
Democratic Party of reaching an underhand deal with the former
British colony`s communist overseers in Beijing.

A total of 46 out of 60 members of the Legislative
Council voted for the plan to enlarge the chief executive`s
appointment committee, including eight members of the
Democratic Party -- Hong Kong`s oldest opposition group.

The vote for the second half of the reform package
-- to expand the Legislative Council itself with the addition
of 10 directly-elected seats -- was adjourned until tomorrow
as lawmakers continued debating the issue late yesterday.
That proposed change would still leave the
legislature heavily influenced by pro-Beijing business elites,
while the chief executive would remain reliant on backing from
the central government of mainland China.

Pro-democracy lawmakers failed to postpone the
votes after a day-long debate on Wednesday that attracted
raucous crowds of rival activists, both supporting universal
suffrage, and Beijing loyalists.

Scores of police officers, bracing for any clashes
between the rival camps, maintained a heavy presence outside
the Legislative Council building last night.

"We are disappointed that many lawmakers have
decided to give up their dreams for democracy after years of
campaigning," Chan King-fai, of the Post 80s, a group of young
activists leading the pro-democracy rally, told AFP.

But the Democratic Party said the plan was still an
important advance for Hong Kong, whose legal and
administrative system remains independent from the rest of
communist China.

Party chairman Albert Ho said protestors who had
greeted his lawmakers with insults and angry gestures had
misunderstood them.

"My heart felt very heavy. I knew we had to pay a
price when we made the decision to support the plan," he said,
stressing that the party would continue its fight for
universal suffrage after the reforms go through.

PTI