Hong Kong lawmakers rejected a Beijing-backed political reform package Thursday as pro-democracy legislators united to vote down the divisive electoral roadmap that has sparked mass protests.
Most pro-government lawmakers staged a walkout as the bill headed for defeat, with just eight casting their vote in support of the package.
Twenty-eight lawmakers voted against it, including all 27 pan-democrats.
The bill needed the support of two-thirds of the city’s 70-strong legislature in order to pass.
“This motion has not gained a two-thirds majority vote,” said Jasper Tsang, the president of the city’s legislative council.
“I announce that the motion has been vetoed.”
Although the Hong Kong government’s plan would have given all residents the right to vote for the chief executive for the first time in 2017, it adhered to a Beijing ruling that candidates must be vetted by a loyalist committee.
The proposal was derided as “fake democracy” by opposition lawmakers and campaigners.
“We have no idea what happened with the rest of the group suddenly deciding to leave the chamber,” said James Tien of the pro-government Liberal Party.
“We decided to stay put and vote for the bill.”
The lawmakers walked out after their request for a 15-minute suspension was rejected by the speaker.
Pro-government lawmaker Jeffrey Lam said that they had requested the delay so that another legislator, who had been ill and was running late, could join the vote.
But Democratic Party lawmaker Emily Lau slammed the “farcical” walkout.
“Those people who were not present in the chamber were supposed to be assisting in running Hong Kong, but if you look at their farcical behaviour you can’t help feel sorry for Hong Kong,” said a visibly riled Lau.
Civic Party leader Alan Leong said that it would “go down in history” that only eight people supported the bill.
“The message that we are sending to the central people’s government and the Hong Kong government is that Hong Kong people do not want to take on this fake democratic package,” said Leong.
“We do not want our votes to be used to legitimize an anointment of a chief executive that belongs and is accountable to only vested interests.”
Around 100 pro-democracy supporters outside the legislature cheered, punched the air and hugged each other as the result was broadcast live on a big screen.
“I’m excited!” said Ken Tsang, 30, who works in the IT industry.
“An undemocratic proposal should not be passed. It was a proposal that would only benefit those in power.”
Hundreds of pro-government supporters, who had been gathered throughout the morning, shouted through loudspeakers to “vote out” the democrats.
Both sides were separated by metal barriers amid high security at the government complex.