The President of the Hong Kong legislature Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said he was “extremely disappointed” that a key electoral reform failed to pass on Thursday amid a walkout blunder from the pro-government camp.

Tsang made the comments shortly after legislators voted down the government’s proposals for electing the city’s next chief executive in 2017. The proposals would have allowed Hongkongers to directly elect their chief executive, from a limited pool of pre-selected candidates approved by a predominantly pro-Beijing nominating committee.

Speaking to journalists outside the council chamber, he said: “A host of problems in our governance will be difficult, if not impossible to tackle in the coming years. The rejection of the proposal will also mean closing the doors at least for a certain period of time to communication between the government and pan-democrats in Hong Kong.”

jasper tsang
Legislative Council President Tsang Yok-sing speaks to media after reform bill rejected.

The political reform bill was rejected in the Legislative Council with only 37 out of 70 lawmakers present. Twenty-eight voted “no” and eight voted “yes”, while Tsang did not cast his vote as LegCo president, which is normal procedure.

Communication was chaotic inside the chamber in the minutes leading up to the vote. Following concluding speeches from senior government officials in charge of political reform, Tsang announced the bill was up for voting at around noon.

Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung of the Economic Synergy then asked for a recess, saying his fellow party member Lau Wong-fat, a rural kingpin in charge of Heung Yee-kuk, was on his way to take part in the “historic vote.” But Tsang rejected the request, saying voting had already begun. Pro-government lawmakers then staged a walkout hoping the meeting would be halted due to lack of quorum.

But five Liberal Party lawmakers from the pro-government camp were not informed of the walkout move and remained in the chamber.

The vote ended up going ahead with 37 lawmakers present, slightly higher than the legally required 35 for the result to be legitimate.

Asked about the walkout blunder, Tsang said: “I believe it was not intended. I believe it was some kind of an accident, a very unfortunate accident. I believe the members concerned will have to consider why such an accident could have happened.”

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Vivienne Zeng

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.