A civilian group that threatens to occupy Hong Kong's central business district if the government does not endorse democracy in the coming leadership election said Thursday a civil referendum will be held in June to pick a final proposal for government's consideration.
Launched by two scholars and a religious leader, the group called Occupy Central has gathered some 2,000 followers who will on May 6 discuss and vote for three most-popular proposals among more than 20 proposals generated by dozens of civil groups and organizations in previously held "Deliberation Days."
The proposals will then be subject to a civil referendum on June 22 when all Hong Kong people can vote for an ultimate resolution to submit to the government, which has been consulting the public on political reform.
"After the civil referendum, we (will) have one proposal agreed by all people who support universal suffrage," group leader and law professor Benny Tai told the press. "That will provide a very clear goal and objective for us to consolidate our work and effort."
No date was fixed for the occupying protest, although the group has previously planned for July 1 to coincide with the annual democracy demonstration held since 2003 when a half a million marching people forced the government to shelve a proposed anti-subversion bill.
Beijing's core legislative body, the standing committee of the National People's Congress, which has final say over Hong Kong's political reforms, has decided Hong Kong can have universal suffrage in as early as 2017, which would allow one-person, one-vote in electing the next leader after an elite Nominating Committee decided on the candidates.
The Occupy Central movement was launched after doubts were raised over Beijing's sincerity in allowing "real universal suffrage" that complies with international standard of a right to vote as well as a right to be nominated.
The pro-Beijing camp has in response orchestrated a fierce campaign against the occupying movement, condemning it as illegal and canvassing for support in schools and churches opposing it in addition to frequent publication of negative news reports.
Investment bank UBS has issued a study claiming the Occupy Central protest would bring instability to business activities, particularly for companies in the business center, and discourage tourism if it was prolonged, the South China Morning Post reported.
"We will be working with more groups and also we may go into the community to share about this goal and objective with more Hong Kong people, I think that will be the ways we consolidate all the support for Occupy Central," Tai said.
The first-phase government consultation will end May 3 and results will be submitted for Beijing's vetting before the launch of the second-phase consultation.