Hong Kong protest leaders to hold street vote

Students will conduct a poll asking protesters what they think of a government proposal aimed at ending demonstrations.

Protesters have been camped out in Hong Kong for a month, demanding free elections [Reuters]

Hong Kong protesters plan to hold a straw poll on government proposals they rejected earlier in the week as their street campaign pushing for free elections for the Chinese-controlled city enters its fifth week.

Student leaders announced a plan for an electronic poll of protesters on reform proposals tabled by senior city government officials in talks on Tuesday that failed to break the deadlock.

“The government always says that the students don’t represent the people in the plaza and Hong Kong citizens, so we are here to make all our voices heard and we will tell the government clearly what we think,” Alex Chow, one of the students guiding the movement, told protesters.

From the field: Divya Gopalan, Hong Kong

While the protest leaders say the aim is to measure the opinions of the people who have taken to the streets, other say it could backfire, and instead could lead to a decision on whether to continue the campaign. 

Saturday night was quiet at the protest site with thinning numbers. Momentum seems to have somewhat waned after the student and government talks on Tuesday failed to yield any encouraging results. 

The Blue Ribbon anti-protest campaigners held a candlelight vigil in Tsim Sha Tsui, across the harbour from Admiralty. There are reports that a local reporter from RTHK, a local media station, was attacked by the demonstrators there. 

In the poll, that will be conducted through a mobile app at the biggest protest site in Admiralty on Sunday, demonstrators will be asked whether the government’s offer to submit a report to the central government’s Hong Kong and Macau affairs office on the protests would have any practical purpose.

The report would note the protesters’ unhappiness with a Beijing-dictated plan to have a 1,200-person committee screen candidates for the city’s top leader in the inaugural 2017 election.

Hong Kong officials have also offered to hold regular dialogue with protesters about democratic reforms if they end their occupation of three of the city’s busiest areas.

The Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the main organisers behind the protests, has already rejected the government offer but still called for the Sunday referendum.

Another organiser, Occupy Central, said the poll would ask two questions.

One is on whether the government report should also include asking China’s legislature to reconsider its August decision on the committee vetting candidates.

The other is on whether the dialogue should also cover reforms to the local legislature. Student leaders plan to hand the results to the government on Monday, Reuters new agency reported.

‘Time to go home’

Speaking publicly for the first time since the protests began, Tung Chee-hwa, the city’s first chief executive after its 1997 transition from British to Chinese rule, said on Friday that the protesters’ demands were not realistic and that they should accept a longer timeline for electoral reforms.

“Students, I hope you listen to what this old man is saying,” the 77-year-old, who left office in 2005, said in a news conference. “It’s time to go home.”

Leung Chunying, Hong Kong’s current chief executive, has said the protesters have no chance achieving their goal.

Friday marked the start of the fifth week since tens of thousands began blocking major roads to oppose to a plan by the Chinese central government to let Hong Kong people vote for their leader in 2017 for the first time but limit candidates to those vetted by a panel stacked with Beijing loyalists.

Opponents of the protests tried to forcibly dismantle makeshift barricades around a protest zone in the heart of the densely populated Mong Kok district, as they have done on many days during the occupation, but police intervened.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies