Hundreds of thousands vote for greater democracy in Hong Kong

Unofficial referendum angers China’s ruling Communist Party

A volunteer of the Occupy Central movement directs voters to line up outside a polling station during the unofficial referendum in Hong Kong last Sunday. Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters.

A volunteer of the Occupy Central movement directs voters to line up outside a polling station during the unofficial referendum in Hong Kong last Sunday. Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters.

Wed, Jun 25, 2014, 01:00

More than 700,000 Hong Kong citizens have cast their vote in an unofficial referendum about the country’s democratic future, an act of defiance that has raised the hackles of the ruling Communist Party in Beijing.

The poll was organised by the Occupy Central protest movement, and was aimed at strengthening the legitimacy of the group’s demands for a fair and representative election in 2017 that would include opposition democrats.

“What is the point of one man, one vote if at the end of the day we have to vote from three puppets or four puppets anointed by Beijing?” said Anson Chan, Hong Kong’s former top civil servant and a key supporter of the unofficial referendum.

The Global Times newspaper, part of the People’s Daily publishing group, ran an editorial saying it was “ludicrous” to let Hong Kong people decide their future online.

‘Mincing ludicrousness’

“Throughout the world, we have never heard of making major political decisions via an electronic ballot. This ‘invention’ is tinged with mincing ludicrousness,” ran the commentary.

Polling in the unofficial referendum was extended from June 22nd until June 29th after the voting website received billions of hits in an apparent cyberattack last week.

The cyberattack prompted organisers to open 15 polling booths across the city on Sunday. Residents have so far voted online and via smartphones.

Beijing this month issued a policy document urging residents in China’s richest city to be more loyal.

When Britain gave Hong Kong back to China in 1997, the terms included a “two systems-one country” package and a mini-constitution known as the “Basic Law”.

White paper

This enshrines democratic rights, which irks many in the Communist Party leadership, as reflected within the white paper published this month.

Voting on a broad level in Hong Kong would be the first example of democracy in China, and is obviously a threat to single-party rule by the Communist Party, which has run China since the 1949 revolution.

Meanwhile, the pro-Beijing group Silent Majority released a video last week warning of possible deaths and general mayhem if the Occupy Central protests proceed.