09/10/2012, 00.00
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As pro-democracy parties win, government drops school reform

After weeks of growing confrontation, Hong Kong authorities announce that 'moral and national education' courses would be optional for schools. In parliamentary elections, local voters give pro-democracy parties the edge.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - After successfully stopping 'national education' courses, Hong Kongers have voted for the region's Legislative Council with pro-democracy candidates taking a majority of seats. Although final results are not yet in, projections give pro-democracy parties a majority of elected seats. The other seats are chosen by electors in functional constituencies.

The opposition won 18 out of 35 seats based on geography, the rest have gone to pro-Beijing supporters of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Results from the election to the 35 seats representing functional constituencies, i.e. five 'super seats' chosen by all registered voters and 30 seats elected by functional electorates, are not yet known.

The opposition should have a slight edge in the vote and be able to obtain 24 seats to exert veto power on the territory's main political decisions.

Results and turnout show that the desire for democracy is strong in Hong Kong. People still want full universal suffrage, which Beijing has adamantly resisted so far.

After leading the opposition for ten years, the Democratic Party lost, winning only four seats. Its chairman, Albert Ho, acknowledged the defeat and announced his resignation.

"I still believe the reform package we passed in 2010 served the interests of Hong Kong, and had the support of the general public," Ho said. However, in view of the results, he expressed his "most sincere apologies" for the outcome.

Nevertheless, pro-democracy groups can boast of one major victory. After Saturday's demonstration led by card Joseph Zen against 'national education' courses, the government has backed down.

On Saturday, Hong Kong's chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, said the 'moral and national education' would be optional for schools.

Students on a hunger strike will not stop as yet though. "There are guidelines. People must monitor schools and the government over the long haul and that will be hard and boring. The people of Hong Kong cannot spend every minute of their life defending their children from a politically partisan educational system."


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