Hong Kong Votes to Elect Panel to Choose Next Leader

Hong Kong Votes to Elect Panel to Choose Next LeaderHong Kong Votes to Elect Panel to Choose Next Leader

Voting is underway in Hong Kong to elect a committee, which is tasked with choosing the next leader of the Chinese-administered city in the upcoming election slated to be held in March next year.

Sunday’s vote comes only two days after the semi-autonomous city’s pro-Beijing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said he would not run for office again when his term ends in July 2017. While jubilant at his announcement, Leung’s critics fear another hardliner-Beijing-backed leader will be assigned to the role by the Election Committee, Aljazeera reported.

This year, some 1,239 candidates are competing for 733 seats on the 1,200-member Election Committee.

A total of 461 members of the committee have already been automatically elected, including those who faced no contest and those who are ex-officio members.

The remaining six seats, which will be left vacant for various reasons, include the seats of two pro-independence MPs who were disqualified from taking office after their oaths of allegiance were deemed invalid.

The vote, in which 230,000 voters–6% of the total electorate, will be allowed to cast ballots is widely criticized as “undemocratic”.

The voters, who are selected to represent prominent sectors and interest groups in Hong Kong, are mostly seen as pro-China. There are increasing fears that China is tightening its grip on the city it inherited from the UK in 1997, particularly after two pro-independence lawmakers advocating a complete split from Beijing were barred from taking up their seats.

The Hong Kong government is also taking four other pro-democracy legislators to court on Thursday, to unseat them after an intervention from Beijing.

Around a thousand protesters rallied in Hong Kong on Saturday against what they view as a continuous crackdown on pro-democracy lawmakers and an electoral system skewed towards Beijing.

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