Political reform has been a constant source of friction between Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and the mainland since the former British colony was handed back to Communist Party rulers in 1997.
On the surface, the National People’s Congress will likely make a landmark ruling by endorsing the framework for the first direct vote by a Chinese city to choose its leader. Beijing is already hailing it as a milestone in democratic reform.
However, Beijing will tightly curb nominations for the 2017 leadership poll to filter out any candidates it deems unacceptable, said a person with knowledge of the electoral framework. Only two or three “patriotic” candidates will be allowed on the ballot and open nominations will be ruled out. Instead, candidates must be backed by at least 50 percent of a 1,200-person “nominating committee”.
That committee is meant to be “broadly representative” of Hong Kong interests, but will be similar in composition to an existing election committee stacked with pro-Beijing loyalists.
It’s a formula that will rile Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists, who plan to blockade the city’s Central business district in the coming weeks.
On Saturday, Hong Kong’s public broadcaster RTHK said 5,000 police will be deployed for the “Occupy Central” protest, heightening the sense of unease. The city’s 28,000-strong police force is already on high alert.