Hong Kong legislature approves China-backed political reform package

[JURIST] The Legislative Council of Hong Kong [official website] on Friday approved an addition of 10 members [amendment, PDF] to its body. By a vote of 46-12, the council approved increasing its membership number to 70 one day after it approved changes [The Standard report] to the way in which Hong Kong's chief executive is elected. While Hong Kong's current Chief Executive Donald Tsang [official profile], applauded the changes—the first to Hong Kong's electoral procedures since the change from British rule in 1997—the additions to the council were seen by many as a blow to the pro-democracy movement [Reuters report] in the country. In remarks made after the vote [transcript], Tsang focused on the bipartisanship needed to pass the reforms:

For too long, partisan politics, political infighting, and distrust of the Central and SAR governments have marred the discussions not only in LegCo but also public affairs at large. This time round, some parties and scholars have shown us how constructive political dialogue and mutual trust can bring real benefits to the community.
The changes to the council's membership and the method of electing a chief executive will be implemented in 2012.

The changes to the Hong Kong political and electoral process are a significant first step [WSJ editorial] for the nation, but they do not go far enough for some, and the result has divided members [AP report] of Hong Kong's Democratic party. One of the provisions of the new system calls for a scaling back of so-called "functional constituencies", which are positions on the council selected by special interests, rather than by popular vote. China's willingness to compromise on these constituencies, while a political victory [AP report] for that nation, may also signal an understanding that China will have to adhere to its promise [The Economist report] of universal suffrage for Hong Kong by 2020.

 

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