Hong Kong Delays Legislative Action on By-Elections

Posted July 5th, 2011 at 2:50 am (UTC-5)
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The Hong Kong government has abruptly postponed a controversial election-reform plan following a huge street protest last week.

The legislation, backed by Chief Executive Donald Tsang, would end the practice of using by-elections to fill the seats of legislators who die or resign during their four-year terms. Vacant seats would instead be filled with runners-up from the party lists in the most recent election.

The government said the law was needed after several opposition lawmakers resigned last year and then regained their seats in by-elections as a tactic to protest government policy.

Critics see the law as an erosion of existing democratic rights. They attracted tens of thousands of people Friday to the territory's largest protest rally in several years.

The legislature had planned to vote on the measure July 13. But officials in Mr. Tsang's administration announced Monday it will now submit the bill for two months of public consultation, ending in September.

Pro-democracy legislators in the autonomous Chinese territory dismissed the public consultation process as a mere delaying tactic, and continue to insist that the bill be completely withdrawn.

Chief Secretary Henry Tang says the administration will complete work on the bill in the next legislative year after taking the public's views into full consideration.