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HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hopes that Hong Kong's 2017 election will be genuinely democratic have been dashed after a senior Chinese leader said, regardless of the vote, Beijing will have the final say on who is appointed Hong Kong's next leader.
Qiao Xiaoyang, chairman of the law committee of the National People's Congress, said China will not allow someone who "confronts" Beijing to become Hong Kong's leader.
"First, the nomination committee will decide. Then voters in Hong Kong will decide. Lastly, the central government will decide whether to appoint or not," Qiao said in a March 24 closed-door seminar, according to a transcript posted online on Wednesday.
Albert Ho, the city's Democratic Party lawmaker, said the move was a "pre-emptive strike" to contain people's expectations towards universal suffrage.
"It's fake universal suffrage, and it's not much better than the uncontested elections they have in Beijing," Ho said.
"Beijing is very skillful. They hold all the cards. They exert pressure, contain expectations, then they'll make sure they get the chief executive they want."
Pro-democracy groups say if Beijing fails to deliver universal suffrage that meets global standards, they will organise mass protests next year to block traffic in Hong Kong's central business district, according to media reports.
Hong Kong remains a beacon of democratic reform and civil liberties in China, which wants to see the self-ruled island of Taiwan reunited with the mainland, perhaps under a similar formula to Hong Kong.
(Reporting By Yimou Lee and James Pomfret; Editing by Michael Perry)