China leaders discuss Hong Kong's political future

Tens of thousands of residents joined the annual pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong Tuesday, July 1, 2014. Image copyright AP
Image caption On 1 July tens of thousands marched in support of democracy in the territory

China's top leaders meet this week for talks on Hong Kong's political future.

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress is holding a week-long session to discuss how Hong Kong picks its leader.

Beijing says Hong Kong residents can elect their leader in 2017, but critics expect Beijing to screen candidates via a nominating committee.

Pro-democracy activists have pledged large-scale civil disobedience if an acceptable agreement is not reached.

The Standing Committee is meeting from 25-31 August, a statement said last week.

Lawmakers would deliberate on a report from Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung on whether to revise election methods for the territory's top job, state-run Xinhua news agency said.

Mr Leung was selected by a 1,200-member committee in 2012, but in 2017 Hong Kong residents will be allowed to vote for their leader.

At the heart of the row, however, is whether Beijing will require candidates for the position of chief executive to obtain support from more than 50% of a nominating committee in order to get his or her name on the ballot.

Most expect that committee to be made up of pro-Beijing businessmen and individuals, thereby giving mainland authorities an effective veto over candidates.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Tens of thousands also joined a pro-Beijing rally on 17 August in Hong Kong

But activists want no restrictions on the nomination of candidates. A decision is expected at the end of the month.

The pro-democracy Occupy Central movement has pledged to hold a sit-in of 10,000 protesters in the territory's business district if it views the ruling from Beijing as inadequate.

Juliana Liu, BBC News, Hong Kong

Hong Kong's political future will be decided, in large part, at this week's parliamentary meeting in Beijing.

Benny Tai, founder of the Occupy Central movement, told a gathering of pro-democracy activists at the weekend that an overly strict framework for electoral reform is likely to trigger protests and, ultimately, occupation of the main business district in Hong Kong.

Chinese lawmakers are expected to announce their decision on Sunday.

An analysis piece in the overseas edition of the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, suggests the Chinese government will not budge from its bottom line.

Officials have previously stated that the next chief executive must be a patriot and must not oppose the central government.

Pro-democracy activists have said these requirements are not consistent with accepted international standards of universal suffrage.

The issue is the subject of huge debate in Hong Kong, a former British colony now governed by China under the principle of "one country, two systems".

In June, almost 800,000 people cast ballots in an informal referendum organised by Occupy Central on how the chief executive should be chosen.

This was followed in July by a major pro-democracy march that saw tens of thousands take to the streets. Earlier this month, meanwhile, large crowds turned out for a pro-Beijing rally in Hong Kong.

The same issue is rumbling in Macau, where over the weekend activists began a similar informal referendum on democracy.

Currently a group of 400 people elect Macau's leader. The referendum - taking place online after activists trying to staff a polling station were detained - is due to run until 31 August.

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