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700,000 Hong Kong voters defy Beijing in referendum on democracy


Tens of thousands of Hong Kongers lined up to vote on Sunday, joining hundreds of thousands of others who cast electronic ballots in the first three days of an unofficial referendum on democratic reform.

Tensions have soared in Hong Kong over how much say residents can have in choosing their next leader, who is currently hand-picked by a 1,200-member committee of mostly pro-Beijing elites.

Beijing, which has pledged to allow Hong Kongers to choose their own leader starting in 2017, has balked at letting members of the public nominate their own candidates, saying they would have to be vetted by a Beijing-friendly committee.

Pro-democratic organisers of the Occupy Central with Love and Peace movement are offering voters three proposals on public nomination. The central government’s liaison office has called the vote “a political farce that overtly challenges the Basic Law”, referring to the mini-constitution that promises a high degree of autonomy under the principle of “one country, two systems” for Hong Kong after it became a specially administered Chinese region in 1997.

By last night nearly 700,000 ballots had been cast since voting started on Friday.