Five Hong Kong legislators have resigned from the Legislative Council, Hong Kong’s lawmaking body. The legislators represent two of the five pro-democracy political parties in Hong Kong. Their actions represent a desire to press for direct elections, a desire also held by some of the general public, in an attempt to force the Chinese communist government to allow for full democracy in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong, a former British Colony, was transferred to Beijing’s rule in 1997 on the stipulation that Hong Kong is able to retain broad civil liberties as a special administrative region in certain areas. However, many accuse China of having stalled on its commitments to allow for a majority of legislators in the Legislative Council to be directly elected by the general public. Currently, half of the Legislative Council is elected by locals while the other half is voted for by functional constituencies, groups including lawyers and bankers. Also a mere 800 of the 7 million in the city are allowed to elect the Chief Executive, while most of this group is later elected by the functional constituencies mentioned beforehand.
Protestors, many which are youths have expressed a wish for democracy and general discontent with current economic circumstances. Youths have been faced with high unemployment, increasing university tuition and competition from mainland China in the form of low-salaried employees and university graduates. The intensity of recent political protests has also been a stark contrast to the traditional peaceful demonstrations that have become synonymous with Hong Kong. In the last few weeks, officers have been forced to make series of arrests due to scuffles breaking out between youths and officers caused by obscenities exchanged between the two. The by-elections are hoped to result in an informal referendum on if the functional constituencies should be eliminated to make way for a one person one vote system.
The New York Times, “As Hong Kong’s Political System Stalls, So Does Its Democracy Movements”, January 27, 2010,http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/28/world/asia/28hong.html
Financial Times, “Hong Kong legislators launch ‘popular uprising’”, January 27, 2010, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/68a6544e-0b0d-11df-9109-00144feabdc0.html
Associated Press, “Hong Kong MPs quit in attempt to push Beijing towards direct elections”, January 26, 2010,http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jan/26/hong-kong-democracy-bid