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Hong Kong unveils Beijing-friendly election reform plans

A pro-Beijing election reform plan has been unveiled in Hong Kong by the government. The changes have the backing of China, but lack the support of opposition lawmakers.

Hong Kong's plans for election reform were unveiled to lawmakers on Wednesday by the city's deputy leader, Carrie Lam. The announcement prompted an immediate response from some opposition lawmakers, who left the chamber as the announcement was being read (pictured above).

The proposal, which affects Hong Kong's first-ever vote for the city's top leader, would see all 5 million eligible voters able to select from up to three candidates in the 2017 poll. These three candidates would be selected by a panel of 1,200 people that enjoy the favor of the Chinese government.

The Beijing-vetted panel has been a serious point of contention for those calling for Hong Kong to take steps toward

increased democracy

. When China announced how it planned to

select members of the panel

in August, it sparked a wave of street protests in Hong Kong that brought the city to a standstill at times and was only ended when police forced out the last of the protesters in a

crackdown in December

. Protesters were demanding that the nomination process for Hong Kong's top post would be .

During Wednesday's announcement of Hong Kong's position regarding the elections, Lam stated that the decision was in "strict compliance" with Hong Kong's constitution and China's decision on the matter. She also said that the election reforms "fully take into account the view expressed by various sectors of the community."

Lawmaker Alan Leong of the opposition Civic Party was one of those to walk out of the chamber when the announcement was read. He was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying "pan-democrats would like to condemn strongly the government" and that they would launch a campaign to block the proposal, asking the "Hong Kong public to seek true universal suffrage."

Many of the parliamentarians wore yellow Xs on their backs, representing the camp that favors completely open elections.

Outside the building where the proposal was made, protesters from both camps had gathered; many of those in favor of the reforms waved Chinese flags, while opponents carried yellow umbrellas – a symbol of the

pro-democracy movement

.

Hong Kong legislators are set to vote on the election reform proposals in the early summer.

mz/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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