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Hundreds vote in Macau unofficial referendum on electoral reform despite objection from Beijing
Agence France Presse - August 24, 2014
The referendum will run for a week to end on August 30, one day before the Special Administrative Region's new leader is named by a 400-member committee.
The former Portuguese colony returned to Chinese rule in 1999 and has a separate legal system from the mainland. Like Hong Kong, Macau's leader is known as its chief executive and is chosen by a pro-Beijing electoral committee.
"Our goal is to fight for a democratic electoral system and the first stage is to get the citizens informed of the election system," poll organiser Jason Chao said in the leadup to the event.
"We hope that the referendum will be able to serve as a foundation for our fight for democracy in the future."
The event's official website detailed that within hours of the poll opening, about 750 people had voted.
Questions include whether there should be universal suffrage for the 2019 chief executive elections and how confident voters are about the sole candidate in this year's election Fernando Chui, who has held the chief executive position since 2009.
Residents are asked to vote either electronically or at several locations in the city.
Beijing says poll has 'no authority'
China has hit back at the referendum, with a statement from the city's Beijing's liaison office saying the organisers have "no authority" to hold the poll. Activists hope the referendum turnout will exceed 10,000.
In May, about 20,000 people marched against a bill to allow government ministers generous retirement packages, with many younger people taking part, hoping for greater accountability from their own government.
Hong Kong also held an informal poll on democratic reform in June when more than 790,000 people voted on how the city's next leader should be chosen.
The winning proposal would allow the public or democratically-elected politicians to nominate candidates. Beijing criticised the vote as "illegal and invalid".
China has promised to let residents of the former British colony elect the chief executive in 2017, but has ruled out giving voters a say in selecting candidates, prompting fears that only those sympathetic to Beijing will be allowed to stand.