06/30/2014, 00.00
HONG KONG - CHINA
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Hong Kong's democracy referendum makes history

The unofficial poll attracts 800,000 voters. The Alliance for True Democracy, which supports universal suffrage, wins. Its "three track" proposal would also allow the public, the nominating committee, as well as political parties, to put forward candidates. For organisers, the vote "was the largest scale of expression of public opinion in the city's history."

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - The proposal tabled by the Alliance for True Democracy, a group comprising 26 of the 27 pro-democracy lawmakers, won the unofficial "referendum" on Hong Kong's electoral reform that ended last night.

It secured 331,427 votes, or 42.1 per cent of the 787,767 valid ballots cast during the 10-day exercise, which was organised by the Occupy Central movement. A joint blueprint put forward by Scholarism and the Federation of Students came second with 302,567 votes (38.4 per cent), followed by a People Power's proposal, which clinched 81,588 votes (10.4 per cent).

The unofficial referendum on democracy began at noon on 20 June, and within a few hours, already 200,000 people had voted, far above organisers' best hope of 100,000.

People were asked about the best way to elect the next chief executive in 2017: in a direct poll based on universal suffrage as requested by pro-democracy groups, or by a committee of representatives, as is the case today, with some appointed from above (by the government and Beijing).

For organisers, the vote was a way to vet what people think. The referendum was supposed to be held on 20-22 June, but the most sophisticated and powerful hacker attack according to the authorities against Occupy Central's server forced organisers to extend voting to 29 June.

Hong Kong's Bishop Emeritus Card Joseph Zen on 20 June ended an 84-km march across Hong Kong to encourage citizens to participate in the referendum. Card John Tong, the current bishop, also expressed his support for the right of the people to give their views on democracy.

All the groups that came forward have embraced universal suffrage for the election of the Chief Executive, an idea that Beijing defines as "inconsistent" and "contrary to the Basic Law," the constitution the British left to Hong Kong.

Still, under the Alliance's "three track" proposal the public, the nominating committee, as well as political parties, would be allowed to put forward candidates.

"In the last ten days, Hong Kong people have spoken clearly that they want universal suffrage," said Alliance convenor Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek. "They agree that public nomination is the most effective mechanism [to fight] against screening."

For his part, Benny Tai Yiu-ting, a co-organiser of Occupy Central, noted, "Today should go down in the history of Hong Kong's constitutional development as the referendum was the largest scale of expression of public opinion in the city's history."

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