27 Jan 2010

Pressure for direct elections in Hong Kong

1:36 pm on 27 January 2010

Five members of Hong Kong's Legislative Council resigned their seats on Tuesday in a bid to pressure Beijing for full democracy.

The group says the resulting by-election will serve as a referendum on universal suffrage in the territory.

Before Britain handed the colony back to China in 1997, there was a promise of progress towards universal suffrage.

The BBC reports the group wants full direct elections by 2012 - several years ahead of the timetable set by China's government.

Currently, only half of Hong Kong's legislators are directly elected; the rest are chosen by special interest groups, most of whom are pro-Beijing.

Analysts say the resignation plan highlights the deep divide in Hong Kong politics.

Under British rule for more than 150 years, the territory was returned to China in 1997 under a special agreement that promised to retain Western-style practices.

The BBC reports recent opinion polls show public support for actions by pro-democracy groups, is tepid.