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September 20, 2017

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Hong Kong leader calls for 'patriotic' political reform

HONG KONG--Hong Kong's leader called Tuesday for limited electoral change despite mass pro-democracy protests, saying in a report to China that voters want a "patriotic" chief executive.

Discontent has flared in the semi-autonomous Chinese city over what is seen as increasing interference by Beijing, notably its insistence that it vet candidates before the next leadership election in 2017.

Chief executive Leung Chun-ying said in the report, submitted to China's National People's Congress (NPC) or parliament, that "there is a need to amend the method for selecting the CE (chief executive) in 2017 in order to attain the aim of universal suffrage."

Currently the leader is chosen by a 1,200-strong pro-Beijing committee.

China says voters can elect the next chief executive but candidates must be picked by a nominating committee — raising fears among democracy advocates that only pro-Beijing figures will be allowed.

Leung — saying he was citing findings of an official public consultation period on reform — said "mainstream opinion" believed that a nominating committee should choose candidates, in line with the city's mini-constitution known as the Basic Law.

Reflecting another Chinese stipulation, he added that "the community generally agrees that the CE should be a person who 'loves the Country and loves Hong Kong'."

Pro-democracy activists are pushing for the public to select candidates, which China has ruled out.

Campaign group Occupy Central and its allies have said they will take over the Central business district if public nomination is refused.

An informal poll organised by Occupy in June saw almost 800,000 choose from three options, all of which included public nomination of candidates.

A pro-democracy march on July 1 attracted tens of thousands.

The former British colony was handed back to China in 1997 under an agreement which guaranteed rights such as freedom of speech and an independent judiciary.

Lawmakers' Anger

Pro-democracy lawmaker Frederick Fung said he felt "angry" about Tuesday's report.

"It does not fully reflect the yearnings of the Hong Kong people," he said.

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