Hong Kong votes amid surging anti-China sentiments

For the first time, over half of the 70 seats on the governing legislative council will be directly elected.

Updated: Sep 09, 2012, 17:01 PM IST

Zeenews Bureau

Hong Kong: A day after thousands of protesters staged demonstrations against Chinese patriotism lessons in schools, Hong Kongers are voting to elect a new legislature on Sunday.

In what will be a landmark election with a deeper democratic hue, for the first time, over half of the 70 seats on the governing legislative council will be directly elected.

Hong Kong`s legislature has been expanded from 60 to 70 seats.

The election gains more significance in wake of a wave of anti-China sentiments in Hong Kong after deepening opposition to the education plans that is slated to undermine support for pro-Beijing candidates and boost the confidence of pro-democracy candidates.

Yielding to the protests, Chinese officials scrapped the plans to make mandatory introduction of Chinese patriotism classes in school curriculum.

Hong Kong`s chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, said the classes would be optional for schools.

According to curriculum guidelines, students would have to learn about China`s political leaders, the contributions they have made and the difficulties and challenges they face.

The protesters, who staged demonstrations outside government headquarters in thousands, feared that this was a ploy by Chinese authorities to indoctrinate the city`s young into unquestioning support of China`s Communist Party.

The controversy is the latest sign of increasing discomfort with mainland China`s growing influence on the city. Hong Kongers have also been perturbed about stunted democratic development and an influx of wealthy mainlanders buying up property and driving up prices.

China regained control of Hong Kong from Britain in 1997 after more than a century of colonial rule, but the city has been allowed to retain a high degree of autonomy, a separate legal system and civil liberties not seen in mainland China, such as freedom of speech.

With Agency Inputs