Inrptectural change drives Hong Kong elections

Hong Kong’s gubernatorial elections are expected to be the most open in a decade after public outrage over political meddling drove the legislature to reform the system last month.

Up for grabs is the right to stand for office and to hold the job of governor after outgoing chief executive Leung Chun-ying announced he would resign at the end of the year. He said he would keep his current role as Hong Kong’s security chief until a successor has been elected.

The longtime former policeman made his plans known after lawmakers voted against forming a panel to vet candidates for the top job.

The move — following long-standing worries that Beijing is encroaching on local autonomy — was praised by critics who accused the Beijing-backed government of scaremongering and interference. Beijing’s move had been widely criticized as the latest in a string of reforms that have entrenched the autonomy of the semiautonomous region.

Some new laws and measures also include political exclusion for those standing for the nomination committee that chooses the two-year-term gubernatorial candidates. A Hong Kong lawmaker had proposed the measure that earned widespread support when it was approved.

Prime Minister Li Keqiang said the reforms would help clarify Hong Kong’s current political situation, according to Xinhua, the state news agency.

Polling stations opened Thursday, with counting expected in the middle of the next week. The nine-member committee will screen all candidates and require them to keep the oath of office in a written form.

Hong Kongers can vote for candidates on the island of Sanya with the island of Zhuhai in China. Ballots are not only paper but can be read on special mobile devices, as well as in public spaces, according to the local elections bureau.

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Associated Press writer Didi Tang contributed to this report.

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