An unofficial referendum organized by pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong and denounced by Chinese authorities is now in its final day.
At least 738,000 Hong Kongers have done something China’s 1.3 billion people can only dream of: Cast a ballot to demand a democratic government.
The 10-day poll is organized by protest group Occupy Central, which says more than 700,000 have already voted online or in person.
A Hong Kong government spokesman has said the vote has no legal standing.
Campaigners want the former British colony to be able to elect their leader, or the chief executive. China has pledged direct elections by 2017.
However, voters will only have a choice from a list of candidates selected by a nominating committee, and China’s communist authorities have said all candidates must be “patriotic”.
The voting in polling stations or on popvote.hk website began on June 20. The deadline was originally set at June 22, but was later extended after organizers claimed were several cyber attacks on the website.
Popvote.hk was designed by the University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Polytechnic University to measure support for Occupy Central’s campaign.
In the referendum, voters have the choice of three proposals – all of which involve allowing citizens to directly nominate Hong Kong’s chief executive – to present to the Beijing government.
Pro-democracy activists want the public to nominate the candidates.
But Chinese leaders believe this is illegal and would like to see a committee decide who is on that public ballot, effectively limiting the candidate field to those approved by the authorities in Beijing.
Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997 following a 1984 agreement between China and Britain.
China agreed to govern Hong Kong under the principle of “one country, two systems”, where the city would enjoy “a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defense affairs” for 50 years.
As a result, Hong Kong has its own legal system, and rights including freedom of assembly and free speech are protected.
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