China closes the door on full Hong Kong democracy
China's parliament has said it will tightly control the nomination of candidates for a landmark election in Hong Kong in 2017, a move likely to trigger mass protests in the city's Central business district by disappointed democracy activists.
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) said it had endorsed a framework to let only two or three candidates run in a 2017 vote for Hong Kong's next leader. All candidates must first obtain majority backing from a nominating committee likely to be stacked with Beijing loyalists.
The relatively tough decision by the NPC - China's final arbiter on the city's democratic affairs - makes it almost impossible for opposition democrats to get on the ballot.
"This is a legal, fair and reasonable decision. It is a dignified, prudent decision, and its legal effect is beyond doubt," Li Fei, the deputy secretary general of the NPC standing committee, told reporters after the decision.
Hundreds of "Occupy Central" activists, who demand Beijing allow a real, free election, will this evening hold a small protest to formally launch their campaign of civil disobedience, that will climax with a blockade the city's business district.
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.
In nearby Macau, another special administrative region, leader and sole candidate Fernando Chui was "re-elected" on Sunday by a select panel of 400 largely pro-China loyalists in the tiny but wealthy former Portuguese colony.
The activists in Hong Kong stressed that they wouldn't paralyze the Central district immediately but would this evening lay out plans for smaller actions in the coming weeks leading up to a full-scale protest in the main business district.