Pan-democrats to hold suffrage protest outside Tsang's home

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 January, 2009, 12:00am

Pan-democrats are planning to visit Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen to usher in the Year of the Ox - though not at his invitation.

Incensed by the chief executive delaying the consultation on political reform, pan-democrats are planning to protest outside Mr Tsang's official residence on January 27, the second day of the Lunar New Year, traditionally seen as the day on which the new year begins.

The unofficial visit will be the first for pan-democrats since they were invited at the end of 2007 to hear the National People's Congress Standing Committee deputy secretary general, Qiao Xiaoyang, explain why universal suffrage would not be possible in 2012.

Lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan said pan-democrats had agreed yesterday to carry out the move to call for universal suffrage in 2012 and condemn the delay in holding a consultation on constitutional reform.

Pan-democrats are drafting a joint statement, to be submitted on Monday, condemning the chief executive for lacking integrity and credibility. They are also planning other activities to keep the suffrage debate alive.

However, Ms Ho conceded that without a formal consultation paper to discuss, it would be difficult to keep the issue in the spotlight. 'All we can do is to be even better prepared when the consultation does come out,' she said, referring to continuing talks and information sessions on why functional constituencies 'institutionalise unfairness'.

During the question-and-answer session in the Legislative Council on Thursday, Mr Tsang said: 'Considering that the present economic difficulties will likely peak in the first half of this year, people's main concerns are the economy and livelihood issues. It is not an ideal time for a public consultation.'

But at a media briefing afterwards, he also pledged that the government would go ahead with the consultation by the end of the year, even if the economy had not recovered by then.

Pan-democrats said this comment showed that the economy was being used only as an excuse.

'If he goes ahead even when the economy remains bad, then that shows the poor economy was never the real reason [for the delay],' the Civic Party's Ronny Tong Ka-wah said.

He also said the pan-democrats would not be able to keep the issue of suffrage alive on their own. 'We need the help of all civil society,' he said.

About 15 members of the Democratic Party protested against the postponement outside the government headquarters in Central yesterday morning.

Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan used a mop to write the word 'shameful' in Chinese on a piece of white cloth before it was hung on a gate. He called on the public to take part in the annual march for democracy on July 1, and said pan-democrats would plan a series of public activities to unite a bigger force to demand universal suffrage in 2012.

'We are worried that the delayed consultation will be too rushed ... the chief executive may want to cut the Gordian knot, but this will just trigger stronger opposition,' Mr Ho said.