Hong Kong Chief Executive speaks out against universal suffrage on grounds it would allow the poor a voice in government
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Sid Shniad
2014-10-23 00:28:55 UTC
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Dreams October 21, 2014Hong Kong Chief Executive: Democracy Would
Empower the PoorC.Y. Leung speaks out against universal suffrage on the
grounds that it would allow the poor a voice in governmentby Nadia Prupis,
staff writer*

Hong Kong chief executive C.Y. Leung. (Photo: europeanbusinesssumit

As talks between Hong Kong protesters and the Chinese government began on
Tuesday, the region’s current chief executive C.Y. Leung spoke out
free elections on the grounds that it would empower the poor.

In his first interview with foreign media since the pro-democracy movement
began, Leung said that if the public were allowed to nominate any candidate
of their choosing, elections would be dominated by the large sector of Hong
Kong residents currently living in poverty.

"You have to take care of all the sectors in Hong Kong as much as you can,
and if it’s entirely a numbers game and numeric representation, then
obviously you would be talking to half of the people in Hong Kong who earn
less than $1,800 a month," Leung said. "Then you would end up with that
kind of politics and policies."

Roughly 1.3 million Hong Kong residents—one-fifth of its population—live in
poverty, according to government statistics released
last year. A four-person household earning less than $1,800 a month is
considered poor.

Protesters have been staging mass rallies and sit-ins throughout the region
for weeks, blocking intersections and occupying central business and
government districts, to call for universal suffrage in their upcoming 2017
elections. Among their demands: C.Y. Leung’s resignation.

Leung, who previously refused to consider a dialogue with protesters,
telling them on October 12 that they have "almost zero chance" at achieving
true democracy for Hong Kong, announced last week that he was willing to
open up talks with the movement’s leaders.

On Monday, he said that the government would "like to listen to the
students as to what they have on their minds, and what their proposals are."

"We are all ears," he added.

The *New York Times* reports

Mr. Leung said he has tried to avoid letting standoffs between the
protesters and the police escalate into anything that might echo the
Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing in 1989. Protesters have accused the
Hong Kong police of using excessive force in beating them back with pepper
spray and batons. Mr. Leung said that he hoped the "dialogue" scheduled for
Tuesday between student leaders and five of his top aides would help ease

Protesters remained unconvinced by Leung’s request for compromise, which
came shortly before government officials held their first talks with the
movement’s leaders. On Tuesday, tens of thousands gathered in Admiralty,
Causeway Bay, and Mong Kok, three of the central protest sites, to watch
the televised negotiations, which the *South China Morning Post* notes were
the "first face-to-face dialogue between top officials and activists in the
city's history."

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government would submit
a report to the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office to
"reflect what had happened in Hong Kong and the concerns of different
sectors" since the protests began.

But Lester Shum, deputy secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of
Students, a main organizing group of the movement, said Lam’s request to
end the protests was unreasonable.

"Have we not made enough concessions? So many young people 
 are even
willing to be arrested and go to jail," Shum said. "What do we want? The
right to vote and the right to stand in elections. Now the government is
only telling us to pack up and go home."
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