Why did Hong Kong hold unofficial democracy referendum?

Passers-by walk behind a banner urging people to vote between 20 and 29 June in an unofficial referendum at the financial Central district in Hong Kong on 23 June 2014. Banners have been put up around Hong Kong urging people to vote

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Hundreds of thousands in Hong Kong have voted in an unofficial referendum on the city's democratic development, which is not recognised by the local or Chinese governments. The BBC examines the reasons behind the ballot.

What's driving the vote?

Pro-democracy campaigners want Hong Kong people to be able to elect their leader.

The Chinese government has promised direct elections for the leader, known as the chief executive, by 2017.

However, voters will only have a choice from a list of candidates selected by a nominating committee, and Beijing has said all candidates must be "patriotic".

Activists fear China will use the committee to screen out candidates it disapproves of.

A pro-democracy group called Occupy Central organised the unofficial referendum which was held from 20 to 29 June. Voters were asked to choose among three proposals for the 2017 election, all of which involve allowing citizens to choose who to nominate as a candidate.

A total of 792,808 voters cast their ballots online and at polling stations.

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A volunteer hands a voter's ID card at a polling station in Hong Kong on 22 June 2014. Hong Kong residents could vote in polling stations or online

Is that a high turnout?

The turnout has exceeded expectations - more than one in five voters took part. Organisers had previously said they would be happy with 100,000 votes. Hong Kong has seven million residents.

Experts say turnout may have been boosted by a recent white paper in China that appeared to emphasise its authority over Hong Kong, and news of a cyber attack on the official voting site.

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What is Hong Kong's relationship with China?

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was handed back to China in 1997 following a 1984 agreement between China and Britain.

China agreed to govern Hong Kong under the principle of "one country, two systems", where the city would enjoy "a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs" for 50 years.

As a result, Hong Kong has its own legal system, and rights including freedom of assembly and free speech are protected.

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Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying speaks to Hong Kong journalists at a press conference during the APEC Summit on 6 October 2013 in Nusa Dua, Indonesia. The current chief executive of Hong Kong is Leung Chun-ying

How is Hong Kong's leader currently elected?

The chief executive is currently elected by a 1,200-member election committee. A majority of the representatives are viewed as pro-Beijing.

Hong Kong's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, says that "the ultimate aim" is to elect the chief executive "by universal suffrage", but the candidates would need to be nominated by "a broadly representative nominating committee".

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What does China say?

China has indicated it will not budge, and has called the unofficial vote a "farce".

In its June 2014 white paper, China said some have a "confused and lopsided" understanding of the "one country, two systems" model.

It stressed that while Hong Kong has a "high degree of autonomy", it is "not full autonomy". China still has "comprehensive jurisdiction" over the city.

The white paper sparked criticism in Hong Kong, with some interpreting the document as China asserting its authority over the city.

The Hong Kong Bar Association, which represents the city's barristers, expressed concerns that the white paper threatened the judiciary's independence.

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What is the Hong Kong government's stand?

The Hong Kong government has said Occupy Central's referendum has no legal standing.

It has welcomed the Chinese government's white paper, saying that Hong Kong has benefited from the "one country, two systems" model since the handover.

Hong Kong's current chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, is viewed widely by locals as a Beijing loyalist.

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Protesters from Caring Hong Kong Power protest against Occupy Central outside a polling station during a civil referendum held by Occupy Central in Hong Kong on 22 June 2014 An activist from Caring Hong Kong holds up a sign saying "Occupy Central is illegal"
Is all of Hong Kong united against China?

Not quite. A group called the Silent Majority for Hong Kong has criticised Occupy Central for "endangering Hong Kong", while another called Caring Hong Kong Power says the referendum is "illegal".

Business leaders have also opposed the protests.

A recent survey by Hong Kong University showed more Hong Kong residents view China positively than negatively.

Pro-China legislators have argued that Beijing's proposals are an improvement on the current system.

Meanwhile some moderates within the pro-democracy camp have criticised Occupy Central for giving voters too few choices, which could turn off residents who do not want confrontation with China.

Critics of the referendum point out that Hong Kong law requires a nominating committee to pick the candidates.

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Pro-democracy supporters raise banners that read: "Occupy Central with Love and Peace," during a kickoff ceremony of an referendum on democracy under a plan of Occupy-style protest in Hong Kong, on 20 June 2014. Occupy Central is one of several pro-democracy groups pushing for electoral reform in Hong Kong
What happens next?

Occupy Central has warned that if the Hong Kong government does not come up with a proposal for the 2017 election that meets international standards for democracy, it will mobilise 10,000 people for a sit-in protest in the city's financial district.

The Hong Kong government, which had earlier held a consultation on electoral reform, is expected to release its plans for the election later this year.

Businesses have expressed concern, saying the protest could deal a blow to the economic development of Hong Kong and the mainland.

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