'Unfair' Hong Kong Election Sparks Fresh Democracy Calls


The vote for Hong Kong-'s new leader kicks off this week, but most of its 3.8 million-strong electorate will have no say in choosing the winner,...

The vote for Hong Kong's new leader kicks off this week, but most of its 3.8 million-strong electorate will have no say in choosing the winner, prompting calls for an overhaul of a system skewed towards Beijing. It is the first leadership vote since mass pro-democracy protests in 2014 failed to win political reform and comes as fears grow that China is tightening its grip on semi-autonomous Hong Kong.

As the first round of voting begins, the four candidates are wooing the public - dropping in to no-frills cafes to eat local dishes with ordinary folk. But to little avail.

The winner will be chosen by a committee of 1,200 representatives of special interest groups, weighted towards Beijing. According to a count by local media, only around a quarter are in the pro-democracy camp.

The representatives are selected by a pool of around 230,000 voters from sectors ranging from business to education, and include the city's 70 lawmakers.

Democracy campaigners and some residents say it is inevitable the winner will answer to Chinese authorities - activists already vilify current leader Leung Chun-ying as a puppet of Beijing.

"The members of the electoral committee are only looking out for their own interests, how can they represent the Hong Kong people?" says engineer Stone Shek, 49.

Hong Kongers were offered the chance to vote for the next leader in a Beijing-backed reform package, which stipulated that candidates must first be vetted, triggering the huge 2014 "Umbrella Movement" rallies.

The proposal, dismissed by protesters as "fake democracy", was eventually voted down by lawmakers and the reform process has since been shelved.

Shek said rejecting the proposal was the right thing to do.

But others fear Chinese authorities will never compromise.

"They didn't heed the tens of thousands that came out to protest the Umbrella Movement," said IT worker Tony So, 42, who believes anyone over 18 should be able to vote for the leader.

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