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September 24, 2017

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Taiwan 'regrets' China's decision on HK leader

TAIPEI -- Taiwan's China policy planner expressed regret Sunday that candidates for the next leader of Hong Kong must be screened before they are eligible to run in the special administrative region's first popular election in 2017.

The Mainland Affairs Council expressed disappointment in the decision from China's National People's Congress (NPC), which the council said did not meet pro-democracy Hongkongers' wishes for a free election of their chief executive.

"Democracy and popular voting are universal values. We understand the Hong Kong people's expectation for the implementation of real universal suffrage," the council said in a statement.

"We feel regret," the council said, noting a difference between public opinion in nominally self-governing Hong Kong and the policies of the government in Beijing, which through the NPC chose to set restrictions on the nomination system and number of candidates for the next Hong Kong chief executive.

The Mainland Affairs Council urged cooperation among the people of Hong Kong, the city's special administrative government and the China's central government in Beijing to continue seeking common ground with "wisdom and patience," so that the Hong Kong chief executive election in 2017 can be held in a peaceful and rational manner.

The 12th Standing Committee of the NPC, China's rubber-stamp parliament, decided earlier in the day that Hong Kong's next chief executive will be elected by popular vote in 2017, but only two to three candidates may be put forth and must be selected by a nominating committee.

The decision must win approval from at least two-thirds of Legislative Council members and the Chief Executive, and the NPC'sfinal ractification, before it is implemented.

"The principle that the Chief Executive has to be a person who loves the country and loves Hong Kong must be upheld," said the NPCabout the decision.

The decision at once sparked outcry from pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, with some gathering for an impromptu protest against Beijing's move to "designate" a Hong Kong leader.

Hundreds of activists joined the protest rally, with some carrying posters and placards reading "Occupying Central, Changing Society." Central is the financial and political district of Hong Kong.

The organizers estimated that the rally would attract at least 2,000 people by midnight.

Meanwhile, the pro-democracy group Occupy Central vowed to go ahead with its plan to take over Central in protest, despite repeated warnings from authorities against the idea.

Li Fei, the deputy head of the NPC's standing committee, dismissed democracy advocates' demands for an election based on "international standards," decrying that designation as a subjective one.

He said the NPC's decision was the government's way of "strictly upholding" Hong Kong's Basic Law, the constitution-like document that went into effect when Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997.

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