April 29, 2015 / 4:03 AM / 3 years ago

Fewer than half Hong Kong residents back electoral reform: survey

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Fewer than half Hong Kong’s residents back electoral reforms which would see a pro-China nominating committee select candidates for the next leader in 2017, results of a survey suggested, after protests demanding open nominations crippled parts of the city last year.

Only 47 percent of the 1,167 people surveyed were in favor of the proposal, which outlines a two-step process for the city’s 1,200-strong nominating committee to select two or three candidates for chief executive ahead of a public vote.

China has ruled the former British colony since 1997 through a “one country, two systems” formula which allows wide-ranging autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland and specifies universal suffrage as an eventual goal.

But the National People’s Congress, China’s largely rubber-stamp legislature, said last August it would screen candidates who want to run in the city’s 2017 election for a chief executive. Democracy activists said this rendered the notion of universal suffrage meaningless.

It was the first public opinion survey since Hong Kong officials published their electoral blueprint last week, and comes ahead of a vote on the controversial proposal by lawmakers in early summer.

The Hong Kong government has forged ahead with the Chinese plan. Pan-democratic lawmakers hold a veto majority in the city’s legislative council and have vowed to vote it down.

Government officials have said a veto will have dire consequences for the city’s political development. Hong Kong’s first leader under Chinese rule, Tung Chee-hwa, who has close ties to Chinese President Xi Jinping, told reporters that the government’s proposal was a big step forward.

“At this stage there is no compromise. There is yes or no, take it or don’t take it,” Tung said. “I and many others will do our level best to make sure this is passed.”

Thirty-eight percent of those surveyed said they were against the proposal and 16 percent were undecided, according to the survey which was sponsored by NOW TV and conducted by three Hong Kong universities.

The proposal was least popular among better-educated young people. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed with a college education or above were against the proposal, while 63 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 29 were against it.

Students led tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters into the streets last summer, shutting down major roads in Hong Kong for two and a half months. The protesters demanded open nominations in addition to a vote.

Editing by Nick Macfie

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