Scuffles as Hong Kong officials tout vote plan on 'bus parade'

HONG KONG (AFP) - Scuffles broke out Saturday as Hong Kong officials toured an urban district on a campaign to win support for a government proposal on choosing the city's future leader which has angered pro-democracy campaigners.

Protesters said police took away at least two people during chaotic scenes following a drive-by visit by the city's number two official, Carrie Lam, in the residential region of Kennedy Town on Hong Kong island.

"Her car just passed by so quickly. We couldn't even see who was in the car and we don't think they are going to listen to our voices and what we want," student leader Leung Hiu-yeung told reporters.

Leung, vice president of the City University of Hong Kong's student union, also described the government's campaign as a "joke".

Lam, who smiled and waved at crowds as she rode in an open-top double decker bus, was greeted by cheers and jeers. She visited three locations but did not alight to greet residents.

On Wednesday, she unveiled a roadmap for leadership elections to be held in "strict compliance" with Beijing's requirements that candidates for chief executive must be first approved by a loyalist committee.

China's requirements sparked more than two months of mass rallies which paralysed the city towards the end of last year, but the government plan announced on Wednesday offered no concessions to the city's democracy camp which is calling for civil nominations.

"The government will not listen to any opinions from the people, they just listen to the Beijing government. We are here to show to the public and the world that we will not accept the proposal," 33-year-old product designer Ken Ho told AFP.

"The election system proposed by the government is nonsense... so we have to speak out," said Ho, who was in the midst of dozens of pro-democracy protesters facing off with dozens of government supporters.

The Hong Kong government kicked off the promotional campaign to sell the vote plan after its launch but Lam and the city's chief executive Leung Chun-ying were drowned out by protesters as they visited a middle-class district late Wednesday.

Democracy campaigners will launch their own campaign against the government's proposal on Sunday.

New York-based Human Rights Watch on Thursday denounced the election plan as a "farce", a "rejection of international law" and a "betrayal of democratic aspirations in Hong Kong".

In response, Beijing defended the city's plan to vet candidates, saying it represented public opinion "from all walks of life".

Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997 under a joint declaration which guaranteed political, social and economic freedoms not enjoyed on the Chinese mainland.