Page last updated at 12:09 GMT, Wednesday, 18 November 2009

HK unveils 'democracy blueprint'

Pro-democracy rally in Hong Kong - 18 November 2009
Pro-democracy activists want a universal vote introduced

Hong Kong's government has proposed changes to the way the territory chooses its leader and its legislature.

The government wants to expand the 800-strong committee that chooses the territory's leader to include members chosen by district councillors.

Currently, half the legislative council is elected by popular vote and the rest by special interest groups.

Democrats instead want the universal vote promised when Britain handed Hong Kong over to Chinese control in 1997.

Hong Kong is the only part of China that allows people a say in who controls its legislature.

Under the Hong Kong government's proposal, the election committee that chooses the region's leader, or chief executive, would be expanded by 50% before the next election in 2012.

This body is mostly loyal to Beijing. The government says the changes will make the process more democratic because the expanded body would include directly elected district councillors.

This is not a democratic proposal, a proposal that provides direct elections for all political offices
Emily Lau
Democratic Party

The plans also call for the number of seats in the legislative council, or Legco, to rise by 10 to 70.

Half of these would be directly elected. The other half would, as now, be elected by functional constituencies which consist of interest groups such as businessmen, bankers, lawyers or social workers.

Opponents to the plans said they did not go far enough.

"This is not a democratic proposal, a proposal that provides direct elections for all political offices," said Emily Lau, the vice-chairwoman of the Democratic Party.

Hong Kong's government faces a near impossible task, says the BBC's Chris Hogg in Beijing.

Opinion polls suggest the majority of people there want to elect their leaders by universal suffrage - one person one vote.

But democracy makes Beijing nervous, says our correspondent.

Several times the Hong Kong government has come up with proposals to try to reach a compromise but they have not gone far enough for advocates of democracy.

Democrats knocked back similar plans in 2005, says our correspondent, and there is little in the new proposals to suggest their response will be any different this time around.

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