| Dennis Chong |
HONG KONG (AFP) – Hong Kong’s leader warned Tuesday against fresh pro-democracy protests before the next step in the city’s contentious political reform process, as a new official report on the mass rallies sparked widespread anger.
The government will Wednesday launch a second round of public consultation on the process for electing the city’s next chief executive in 2017.
Beijing has promised Hong Kong it can vote for its leader for the first time, but insists that candidates be vetted by a loyalist committee – a decision which sparked more than two months of street blockades in protest.
But Leung Chun-ying, current leader of the semi-autonomous Chinese city, said more protests would not change anything.
“If we really want to implement universal suffrage on 2017, we … should not do anything that threatens the Hong Kong government or the central government,” Leung told reporters.
“Coercive actions that are illegal or disrupt social order” would not sway authorities in Hong Kong or Beijing, he said.
Democracy campaigners are pessimistic that the consultation will offer meaningful proposals.
“Those coming from the democratic camp will be able to enter (the election as candidates), but they will never be able to be selected for election,” pro-democracy lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki told AFP.
“The government will try to create an impression that we have a lot of room to discuss how candidates of different persuasions can enter the race, but the nominating committee will still do the gatekeeping,” added political analyst Ma Ngok.
A report on the street protests submitted by city leaders to Chinese authorities Tuesday sparked anger.
The 220-page report gives a day-by-day summary of events during the rallies, which saw tens of thousands take to the streets at some stages at their height.
It pledged to truthfully reflect public sentiment and acknowledged there were “divergent opinions” over the election process.
But it concluded that the “common aspiration” of citizens and the government was to abide by Hong Kong’s constitution and Beijing’s rulings on political reform.
“This report was lazy and lacked emotion and did not identify the cause of the entire exercise,” said Sin Chung-kai of the Democratic Party.
“Not only does it support the (Beijing) decision … it also rapes the opinions of Hong Kong residents.”
Student leader Lester Shum ridiculed the report, likening it to a “secondary school newspaper cutting” project.
“The government was not willing to face the political problem,” he said.
Several lawmakers ripped up copies.
The report was submitted to China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, an agency of the State Council (cabinet).
“Everyone should express their appeals in a peaceful and legal way,” a spokesperson said on receiving the report, according to China’s official news agency Xinhua.
China’s ruling that candidates must be vetted was made after Hong Kong’s first round of public consultation on political changes.
The report submitted by Hong Kong leaders to Beijing on that occasion was strongly criticised by democracy campaigners for failing to reflect public views.
The second round is expected to put forward specific proposals on mechanisms to select candidates.
Meanwhile authorities continue to clamp down on activists. On Monday the justice department made court applications to formally charge 20 activists for obstructing bailiffs clearing one of the protest camps, in Mongkok, in November.