The political reform resolution that sparked the 79 days of Occupy protests in 2014 was voted down by 28 legislators in a historic moment for Hong Kong’s stagnating constitutional development on Thursday afternoon.

Following the concluding remarks by the government reform trio – Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen and the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam – the political reform resolution was put to a vote.

Legislative Council universal suffrage umbrella movement
A screen inside the legislative council reads: 37 present, eight for, 27 against. Photo: LegCo.

Twenty-eight out of the 70 legislators, including all of the pan-democratic legislators and Leung Ka-lau of the medical constituency, voted down the resolution.

Only 37 legislators were present as a majority of pro-government legislators walked out of the chamber ahead of the vote. The results of the resolution were:

  • Yes: 8
  • No: 28
  • Abstain: 0

By tradition, the president of the legislature did not cast a vote.

The resolution required a two-thirds majority within the LegCo in order to pass.

The chief executive election in 2017 will remain the same as the process in 2012, whereby the 1,200 member election committee will vote and elect the chief executive for Hong Kong.

Beijing’s original proposal would have allowed voters to directly elect their chief executive, but under a restrictive framework that would have seen all candidates pre-selected by a pro-China nominating committee.

List of legislative councillors and how they voted on the government's proposals for chief executive elections. Photo:
List of legislative councillors and how they voted on the government’s proposals for chief executive elections. Photo: LegCo

Pro-Establishment Members Walk Out

Legislator Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung of the Business and Professional Alliance explains that, since one of their party’s legislators, Lau Wong-fat of the Heung Yee-kuk functional constituency, was not able to make it in time for the vote due to illness.

The pro-establishment legislators wanted to use the 15 minutes that would be incurred if the number of legislators in the chambers was less than half of the total number. This would have allowed Lau to arrive on time to vote.

Tam Yiu-chung, the former chair of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said “We ask [the pan-democrats] to stop their acts of civil disobedience and filibusters.”

On why he and some of his colleagues walked out of the chamber, he said: “We did not expect this, we only wanted Lau Wong-fat to have the right to vote. However, there were some misunderstandings in communicating with other pro-establishment legislators, who stayed inside the legislative chambers.”

Pan-Democrats Rejoice

The result was welcomed by pan-democrat protesters waiting outside the Legislative Council as legislators who voted against the reform package lined up on the floor of the council chamber with banners and a yellow umbrella chanting “we want true universal suffrage”

Civic party leader Alan Leong told journalists outside the chamber: “Today is not the end of the democratic movement. quite the contrary, it’s the start.”

“Hong Kong is now a very divided society and all sides concerned should make their respective efforts to mend the divide and the way forward. We can promise to the Hong Kong people, that the pan-democrats will use every means within our power as legislators to strive for democracy and also to do our utmost to make sure the livelihood issues – whether it be economic, financial or livelihood issues – be timely addressed so that the Hong Kong people will suffer less. This is our promise to Hong Kong.”

Emily Lau, chair of the Democratic Party, accused the legislators of “farcical behaviour”.

“For those people who were not present in the chamber, and almost all of them are considered pro-Beijing and pro-government. They are supposed to be assisting the Hong Kong Government… You cannot help but feel sorry for Hong Kong. I hope the message we send out is that there are only eight votes out of 70.”

The result comes after a day and a half of debates in the Legislative Council on the Government’s political reform proposals for electing the chief executive in 2017.

The most recent opinion poll on public support for the political reform package revealed 47% of those surveyed supported the Government’s proposals and only 38% supported the deal.

Earlier this week LegCo President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing announced that the legislative complex would be in lockdown as legislators during the vote amid fears that protestors camped outside would attempt to storm the building.

CY ‘Disappointed’

Chief Executive CY Leung said “millions of Hong Kongers are literally disappointed” with the 28 pan-democrats who vetoed the government’s reform proposals. He said those members have “rejected most of Hong Kong residents’ wishes, denying the democratic right to elect the Chief Executive through universal suffrage.”

Additional reporting by: Ryan Kilpatrick, Paul Benedict Lee, Vicky Wong and Vivienne Zeng.

Arthur Lo is an undergraduate student currently on a gap year. During Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement protests, he worked as a fixer, translator and producer for foreign media outlets such as Al-Jazeera.