Hong Kong leaders launched a second consultation Wednesday on how to choose the city’s top leader in 2017, after signaling their firm intention to stick with a proposal to screen candidates, an issue that sparked massive street protests throughout the fall.
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam opened the weekslong consultation by addressing the territory’s Legislative Council. Her speech was immediately greeted with a protest by so-called pan-democrat legislators, who raised yellow umbrellas that have become symbols of the city’s pro-democracy movement and walked out of the chamber.
Many of the legislators accuse Hong Kong’s government of breaking promises to let the city choose its chief executive through universal suffrage.
The government said in a report Tuesday that it remained committed to a plan requiring that candidates be picked by a committee believed to be biased toward Beijing. That plan was reached in August and prompted thousands of pro-democracy protesters to block streets in Hong Kong for more than two months demanding open nominations for chief executive.
Tuesday’s report noted that “constitutional development is an extremely controversial issue,” but said it was the “common aspiration” of Hong Kong’s residents, its government and Beijing authorities to implement the vote according to the city’s own Basic Law and the decision by the Chinese National People’s Congress Standing Committee.
“The (Hong Kong) Government wishes to discuss with different sectors of the community specific electoral issues in a rational and pragmatic manner, and work out together a fair, just, transparent and competitive proposal” for choosing the chief executive, the report said.
The council must approve any election plan by a two-thirds majority, and then submit it to authorities with China’s central government.
Pan-democrat legislators have debated whether to vote down a plan that includes the proposed nominating committee, a move that would keep in place the territory’s current system of choosing its chief executive directly through an election committee that many believe also favors Beijing.