Universal suffrage in Hong Kong

Six bureau heads join debate on July 1 march

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 July, 2009, 12:00am

An unprecedented six principal officials attended the Legislative Council yesterday to join a debate initiated by pan-democrats on the July 1 march.

Pan-democrats said the attendance of so many bureau heads showed the government had misunderstood the meaning of the pro-democracy march - that there was widespread discontent over many policies because of the lack of a genuinely democratic system whereby the government was accountable to the people.

A motion, moved by Democrat James To Kun-sun, noted the government's 'lack of sincerity to implement dual universal suffrage for the chief executive and the Legislative Council elections in 2012' and urged the government to 'face up to the aspirations of the people participating in the march'.

Despite the 19-10 vote in favour of the motion among directly elected members, the motion was voted down because it failed to get a majority among functional constituency members, who voted 20-3 against it.

The pan-democrats said the vote highlighted the need for universal suffrage as soon as possible.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung said he found it 'difficult to accept' claims the government lacked sincerity, citing the fact that it had obtained a timetable for universal suffrage in 2017 and 2020.

'Whether it is the government or political parties, we all have a constitutional duty to implement universal suffrage for these two elections,' Mr Lam said.

Meanwhile, a survey has found a large gap between participants in the July 1 march and those who did not join the annual event in their views on the priority of policies, the chief executive's performance and satisfaction with the government.

Last week, the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at Chinese University interviewed 1,010 people aged 15 or above.

About 45 per cent of those who protested said their major concern was universal suffrage.

Those who did not join the march put economic development at the top of the list.

Protesters gave Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen 33.4 marks out of 100, while those who did not participate gave him 53.1 marks.

Only 6 per cent of respondents said they had marched on July 1.