Agence France Presse
Five pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong resigned yesterday, vowing to turn the resulting elections into a populist referendum for universal suffrage in defiance of warnings from China.
About 50 onlookers, with a similar number of press in attendance, applauded under leaden skies as the lawmakers staged the most high-profile challenge yet to China¡¯s stewardship of the glitzy financial hub.
Three members of the League of Social Democrats and two from the Civic Party tendered their resignations at the Legislative Council, a toothless body in British colonial times that critics say remains a rubber stamp under Beijing.
¡°We are giving the opportunity back to the people to vote for real democracy,¡± Civic Party leader Audrey Eu (ÓàÈôÞ±) said after her two colleagues quit.
¡°So we call on the people, if you truly believe in democracy, there is no reason to fear,¡± Eu said.
Two days before their resignations take effect on Friday, the lawmakers plan to outline their goals at what promises to be a stormy council session today as they face off against pro-Beijing forces.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang (ÔøÊa™à) said the government ¡°deeply regrets¡± the lawmakers’ resignations and that their so-called referendum had no legal basis. But he said the government was under a statutory duty to organize by-elections.
¡°As the chief executive, I did not wish to see the situation we have arrived at today. But we have the responsibility to hold the by-election in accordance with the election ordinance,¡± he said in a statement.
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