Chinese leader hints at possibility of full democracy in Hong Kong by 2017

A Chinese leader is likely to soon hint at the possibility of full democracy in Hong Kong by 2017, following last weekend's mass protest in which tens of thousands of marchers demanded the right to elect their government, a newspaper reported Wednesday. The leader, who isn't named, will deliver the message in a vaguely worded verbal statement, but an exact date for the implementation of universal voting rights won't be given, the South China Morning Post reported, quoting an unidentified source close to Beijing.

"The central government may hint in vague and indirect wording that there could be a possibility of reaching full democracy by 2017," the Post quoted the source as saying.

A woman who answered the phone at the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs office of the State Council in Beijing refused to confirm the report. She would only give her surname Wang.

The Hong Kong government did not immediately return a reporter's call for comment. The move apparently aims to ease tensions between the Hong Kong government and the political opposition over the pace of democracy in the territory.

Pro-democracy lawmakers have opposed a government proposal for democratic reforms as too conservative. The proposal will likely be vetoed in a legislative vote on Dec. 21.

A former British colony, Hong Kong remains partially democratic after returning to Chinese rule in 1997. Ordinary citizens have no say in picking their political leader and only half of the 60-member legislature was directly elected. The other half was chosen by interest groups. Many have been clamoring for a timetable specifying when and how Hong Kong can enjoy full democracy, despite a ruling from Beijing last year to rule out quick democratic reforms, reports the AP. I.L.

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