China says rejection of Hong Kong's election plan will hurt future of city

Supporters of real universal suffrage in Hong Kong march through the city streets for the last time ahead of a crucial vote on political reform in the city's Legislative Council, due to take place on 17 or 18 June, in Hong Kong, China, on June 14, 20
Supporters of real universal suffrage in Hong Kong march through the city streets for the last time ahead of a crucial vote on political reform in the city's Legislative Council, due to take place on 17 or 18 June, in Hong Kong, China, on June 14, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA 

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong faces a "very worrying" future should lawmakers fail to pass a China-backed bill to overhaul elections in the city, a Chinese official said ahead of a planned legislative debate on the proposal.

Political wrangling would continue and further polarise the city, if the proposal for the chief executive election fails, deputy commissioner of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong, Song Ruan, told reporters on Tuesday.

Legislators are expected to take up the bill after 11am on Wednesday and could pass it before the end of the week.

China is increasing the pressure on pro-democracy lawmakers, who have pledged to reject the bill because it calls for candidates to be vetted by a committee. Public discontent with the proposal led to tens of thousands of people to join protests last year, with some activist groups threatening to take further action if the proposal passes.

"The prospects of Hong Kong will be very worrying" if legislators fail to approve the measure, Song said. He urged lawmakers to "cast a responsible ballot and give the proposal a chance."

Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying needs four pro-democracy lawmakers to cross over to ensure he gets a two-third majority needed to pass the bill. Should the proposal fail to muster enough support, Hong Kong's next leader would continue to be selected by a 1,200-committee made up of lawmakers, industry representatives and tycoons.

Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd.'s Chairman Lui Che Woo joined other local business leaders in calling for the bill's passage, saying a vote against it would be "wrong." "If not passed, the stock market will drop," Lui said.

Caroline Wilson, the British consul general to Hong Kong and Macau, was seen leaving the foreign ministry office on Tuesday before Sun's briefing with reporters.

Song said the Chinese government would "make the utmost effort" to ensure the bill's passage. Should the bill fail this time, he said the basic framework would remain unchanged.

Local tensions have risen after the police detained 10 people on Monday on suspicion of making explosives.

Police made the arrests in various points around the city, seizing chemicals, air rifles, a 3-D printer and TATP, an explosive that has been used by suicide bombers in the Middle East.

The police did not give details about the group's motives or plans for any specific attack. At least one of those detained claimed to be a member of a "local radical group," Chief Superintendent Au Chin-chau said.