HK votes move rejected

HONG KONG (AP) - After one of the longest debates in its 149-year history, the colonial legislature yesterday recommended rejection of a plan that would scuttle the electoral system.

Conservative businessmen and pro-Peking interests asked the Legislative Council to give voters only one vote, even though two representatives would be elected from each district.

In effect, the electorate's right to choose would be cut in half. Candidates from parties with little support would have a better chance to win because the top two finishers would be elected.

The Council rejected that plan and voted 28 to 23 to maintain the present system, under which voters choose both representatives.

In 1991, the first time Hong Kong held direct elections, pro-democracy candidates won 17 out of 18 available seats in the legislature. The remaining 42 seats were either filled by government appointees or chosen by special interest groups such as travel guides, property brokers and businessmen.

Yesterday's decision is a recommendation to the new Governor, Chris Patten, who is to decide by next year whether the territory's voting system will remain unchanged. The next election is in 1995.

The government instructed appointed legislators to abstain in yesterday's vote.