Democrats hit back at law 'guardians'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 April, 2006, 12:00am

Beijing's criteria for universal suffrage helps Donald Tsang win vote, they say

Beijing is doing Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen a political favour by trying to dampen Hong Kong's expectations for universal suffrage, the pan-Democratic camp said yesterday.

The lawmakers were speaking a day after Wang Zhenmin , a Basic Law 'guardian', set out six conditions Hong Kong must meet before it could achieve full democracy, including national security legislation

Another speaker at the Beijing seminar, Basic Law drafter Xu Chongde said he would support universal suffrage for Hong Kong if a patriot was certain to be returned as chief executive.

Democrat lawmakers responded to the remarks yesterday at a press conference, saying Professor's Wang's six conditions had created obstacles to introducing universal suffrage.

Unionist legislator Lee Cheuk-yan said the remarks were timed to dampen people's hopes for democratic progress ahead of the next chief executive election.

'The semi-official took the ugly job to lower public expectation on universal suffrage, so that Tsang Yam-kuen can run unencumbered by the issue of democracy when he runs for a second term. I hope I'm wrong, but it seems I'm right,' Mr Lee said.

Democratic Party vice-chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said it was an 'insult to many intelligent people' to say the city was not ready for universal suffrage.

'It's obvious ... Hong Kong was ready a long time ago for full democracy, but encountered obstacles presented by the central government,' he said.

Civic Party's Ronny Tong Ka-wah said: 'The six conditions should not be six excuses. If there are conditions at all, those conditions have already been satisfied and can be satisfied, so there's no excuse to delay universal suffrage.'

The lawmakers said they did not reject national security legislation, which is required under Article 23 of the Basic Law, but that it must not conflict with democratic principles.

'We've always agreed that universal suffrage should be linked to Article 23. If there is democratisation, there is no need to be afraid of Article 23,' Mr Tong said

Speaking separately, Liberal Party chairman James Tien Pei-chun said there was no clear reason why national security legislation must come before the introduction of full democracy.

Tsang Yok-sing, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, disagreed, saying it was understandable to put the two issues together.

'When Hong Kong opposes legislation that protects state security, how is it possible to trust a chief executive elected through universal suffrage to defend the state's interests?' he asked. Mr Tien said most people had supported the national security legislation but that the government introduced it at a wrong time. He believed it would not be difficult to obtain public support now.

Mr Tien's resignation from the Executive Council in 2003, after 500,000 people took to the streets rally against it, forced the government to shelve the Article 23 bill.