Hong Kong protesters to vote on government proposals

Protesters outside government offices in Hong Kong (23 Oct 2014) Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Many protesters say the government's proposal for ending the unrest was inadequate

Protest leaders in Hong Kong are to ballot their supporters over whether to accept the government's proposals and end their sit-in.

The protest leaders had previously rejected the government's offer to set up a platform for debating reform and to report to Beijing on the protests.

They said a strong show of support for this stance would help them in their negotiations with the government.

The protests calling for full democracy for Hong Kong began in September.

On Tuesday, student protest leaders and government officials held talks for the first time, but made little progress towards ending the impasse.

The government, represented by deputy leader Carrie Lam, offered to send a report to Chinese government officials reflecting the protesters' views, and set up a platform to facilitate dialogue on future constitutional changes.

But she stressed that Hong Kong could not "decide on its own its political development" because it was a special administrative region within China.

'Make voices heard'

Alex Chow, leader of the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) protest movement, said after that meeting that the government's offer "does not have any practical content".

But on Thursday evening, he told supporters camped outside government offices in the Admiralty area of Hong Kong - which they have renamed Democracy Plaza - that they would be able to have their say on the proposals.

"The government always says that the students don't represent the people in the plaza and Hong Kong citizens, so we are here to make all our voices heard and we will tell the government clearly what we think."

Benny Tai, a founder of the Occupy movement which has also been central to the protests, said the results of the vote would be used to bargain with the government.

Image copyright AP
Image caption A giant banner saying "I want genuine universal suffrage" appeared on Hong Kong's Lion Rock mountain on Thursday

"We will be able to better represent the people and take the initiative on behalf of them," Reuters quoted him as saying.

Hong Kong's RTHK reported that the vote - set for Sunday - will be held electronically, and conducted by the same body which organised an unofficial referendum in June on political reform.

Though numbers have fallen significantly since the early days of the protests, a hard core of demonstrators - mostly students - have said they will not give up their occupation of central areas until China changes its mind on the rules for Hong Kong's 2017 election. They also want Chief Executive CY Leung to stand down.

The Chinese government has ruled that candidates for the chief executive election must be vetted by a nominating committee dominated by pro-Beijing groups. The protesters say they should be allowed a wholly free choice of candidate.

Chinese and Hong Kong leaders say the street protest is illegal.

On Thursday a banner with an umbrella, which has become the symbol of the protests, was hung from Hong Kong's Lion Rock Mountain calling for "real universal suffrage".

The protesters were given a boost by the United Nations Human Rights Committee which called on China to ensure universal suffrage in Hong Kong, including the right to stand for elections as well as the right to vote.

However, On Friday, Hong Kong's former leader Tung Chee-hwa urged pro-democracy demonstrators to stop blockading streets. Mr Tung, who was the first chief executive of Hong Kong after the 1997 handover, now holds a position on the advisory board to China's parliament.

He pointed to the disruption to the economy and said students leaders should resume talks with government officials.

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