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Hong Kong lawmakers debate 'fake democracy' bill

Hong Kong politicians have locked horns over a measure to allow popular elections in the city, but only subject to Beijing's vetting of candidates. Opposition legislators have likened the bill to rotting fruit.

Hong Kong lawmakers met for a debate on Wednesday which pitted pro-democracy politicians against Beijing's staunch supporters ahead of

Friday's vote

on a controversial electoral reform bill.

The bill would finally grant Hong Kong its long-promised right to elect the territory's leader in 2017, but with the caveat that the candidates would first have to be approved by the central Chinese government.

Opponents to the bill form a two-thirds bloc in the city's Legislative Council and are widely expected to united against it on Friday. However, pro-Beijing legislators, such as Hong Kong's deputy leader Carrie Lam, warned in the debate that Beijing would not make concessions. If the reforms were stopped by the council, she said, "political development will inevitably come to a standstill."

"In many advanced western democratic countries, not every resident has equal nomination rights," said Regina Ip, a former security minister, of the vetting process.

New bill is like 'pocketing a maggoty apple'

Pro-democracy lawmakers however see the measure as "fake democracy" with Civic Party member Claudia Mo likening possible acceptance of the bill in the hopes that Beijing will one day soften its stance the to "pocketing a maggoty apple."

"Let us show the world that we are not fools. We will not buy into such delusions for the sake of a quiet life," Mo said during the debate.

Hongkong Prodemocracy Protest

A pro-democracy protester outside of the legislative complex in Hong Kong, where demonstrators camped out for three months last year.

Her party's leader Alan Leong agreed: "What the central government is forcing Hong Kong people to accept is not only a reform package but also an attitude to blindly conform…it's a scam."

The pro-democracy lawmakers held colored placards during the debate to signal their plans to block the bill.

Protesters took to the streets

for months following the announcement of the measure last fall, eventually being forcibly ejected by the police. Ahead of Wednesday's debate ten people were arrested and six were charged over an

alleged plot to make explosives

. The police said the ten were members of a "radical local group," a claim that has elicited skepticism from activists.

es/rc (AFP, Reuters)

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