Hong Kong protests
With one day to go until Hong Kong's lawmakers meet to debate and vote on the highly contentious Beijing-backed electoral reform package, leaders are on high alert for more popular uprisings.
On Monday ten people were arrested on suspicion of planning to manufacture explosives, with six of them charged on Tuesday accompanied by a warning from Hong Kong's leader Leung Chun-ying that no "illegal activities" would be tolerated, "whether these are violent or non-violent." On Sunday several thousand people marched through the city, many holding the yellow umbrellas symbolic of the pro-democracy movement.
Nightly rallies are planned for the coming days, as well as a silent march around Hong Kong's Legislative Council on Wednesday, when the debate is due to start. Police said they would patrol inside the city's Legislative Council overnight on Tuesday, reported Reuters. A vote is due by the end of the week.
Pro-democracy protests brought the country to a standstill late last year as a movement known as "Occupy Central" merged into the "Umbrella Revolution." Thousands of students and older citizens took to the streets and wielding yellow umbrellas as a symbol of their demand for universal suffrage and their rejection of the proposed reforms.
Related: Occupy Central Is Not Like Previous Protest Movements
China promised the people of Hong Kong a transition to universal suffrage after the UK handed control of the island back to Beijing in 1997. But Hong Kong voters can currently only directly elect 35 of the 70 members of the Legislative Council. The proposed reforms would allow a direct vote in 2017 for Hong Kong's leader — known as the chief executive — but all candidates for the post would be pre-screened and approved by a pro-Beijing nominating committee.
Song Ru'an, a Hong Kong-based official with the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said on Tuesday: "The Hong Kong government's proposal is democratic, open, fair and just, " and furthermore that no system "would remain unchanged forever."
To pass, the proposed reform must receive a two-thirds majority from Hong Kong's Legislative Council, though that now looks unlikely with many pro-democracy legislators publicly declaring their intention to vote against it.
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