(AA) – The government on Tuesday all but ruled out giving voters the option to reject all candidates in the 2017 election for Hong Kong’s chief executive, local media reported.
The election of the territory’s top political position sparked last year’s street protests. Beijing wishes to have all the candidates vetted by a committee that opponents say will amount to only Communist Party-approved candidates being put forward.
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam said it was unlikely the electoral reforms being put together by the Hong Kong government would include a “none of the above” option as the idea had received a lukewarm response from pro-democracy politicians, the South China Morning Post reported.
The “blank vote” proposal was made by legal scholar Albert Chen in December in an attempt to break the impasse over electoral reform by allowing the vote to be rerun if more than half of voters rejected the proposed candidates.
“From those political parties and organizations I have communicated with, their responses to Professor Chen’s proposal have been lukewarm,” Lam said.
The newspaper quoted a government source as saying Beijing feared the “blank vote” option could spark a constitutional crisis.
The two-month second round of public consultation on the 2017 election plan ends Saturday. In August last year, Beijing said that while Hongkongers could elect their leader by “one man, one vote,” they would have to choose from candidates endorsed by a 1,200-strong nomination committee.
Lam said a political reform package would be presented next month, when the government announces the latest consultation results on the issue. She warned it was “unrealistic” to expect the process to be restarted if the proposals were vetoed.
Pro-democracy lawmakers have promised to vote against any reforms based on Beijing’s framework, which they have denounced as “North Korean-style” democracy.
Lam’s remarks came as the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong proposed a first-past-the-post system for the election, under which the winner would not have to secure more than half of the votes.
Meanwhile, several pro-democracy lawmakers arrested Monday over their involvement in last year’s “Umbrella Movement” protests were released. They had been arrested for taking part in an unauthorized assembly, the Standard newspaper reported.
Democratic Party lawmakers Albert Ho and Helena Wong, the party’s Chairman Martin Lee, Civic Party Chairwoman Audrey Eu and IT-sector lawmaker Charles Mok were released unconditionally after attending a police station for “arrest by appointment.” Police told them they could be prosecuted in the future.
Separately, a senior Chinese general described the 79-day protests between September and December last year as “an orchestrated Hong Kong version of a color revolution.”
People’s Liberation Army Gen. Sun Jianguo made his comments in an interview with Oriental Outlook, a magazine affiliated with state news agency, Xinhua, the South China Morning Post reported.
Color revolution is a term first used to describe peaceful uprisings in Eastern Europe during the 1990s.