The 5 lawmakers from 2 pro-democracy parties submitted letters of resignation last January in attempt to trigger by-elections, which they hope to turn into an informal referendum on introducing greater democracy in the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong prior to the coming elections that are to be held in 2012, rather than waiting until 2017 or after - as Beijing officials have stated.
Since January, Hong Kong's political system has been increasingly strained with tensions, primarily due to a public dissatisfaction on a lack of democracy compounded with economic havoc brought about by the recent global recession. This was marked by a growing number of protests on opposing the construction of an expensive high-speed rail that links Hong Kong with Shenzhen and Guagzhou in mainland China, and China's consistent delay and backtracking on commitments made in the 1990s to allow the public to directly elect a majority of lawmakers in the region's Legislative Council.
Donald Tsang, the Beijing-backed chief executive of Hong Kong has also suffered significant decline in approval ratings since the recent protests took place, as he struggled with rising local discontent.
Demonstrations in Hong Kong has usually maintained a relatively civil demeanor found uncommon by international standards. This is particularly apparent as 500,000 people congregated peacefully in 2003 to protest against the introduction of Basic Law Article 23, which stipulates that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall enact laws to protect national security by means of prohibiting "any act of treason, secession, sedition or subversion against the Central People's Government". The law is now withdrawn and shelved indefinitely.
The voter turnout of 570,000 out of 3.3 million eligible voters that provided the victory of the 5 pro-democracy lawmakers is a powerful reflection of the massive demonstrations that took place in 2003.
The Hong Kong government has been working to provide larger democratic civil participation for the 2012 elections. However, this has been met with dissatisfaction from democratic advocates who have expressed that the plans do not go far enough. Tsang also promised more democratic procedures for the election of chief executive in 2017 and Legislative Council in 2020.