Concession offered on reform plan

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 October, 2009, 12:00am

The Federation of Trade Unions has put forward an electoral-reform proposal that is more liberal than both the rejected 2005 package and the one expected to be rolled out by the government next month.

The proposal is the first concession of its kind by a major pro-Beijing group.

The plan, under which government-appointed councillors would be excluded as candidates and voters for any new district council seats in the Legislative Council, removes a key stumbling-block from the 2005 reform package and seems to offer a chance of building consensus ahead of a public consultation on the reforms.

Legislator and FTU chairman Wong Kwok-kin said the idea would be presented to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen when he meets lawmakers from all parties next Friday to discuss proposals for the 2012 elections.

'If an appointed district councillor is elected to the Legco [through a district council functional constituency], citizens may not accept it.'

Executive Councillor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung in August floated a similar proposal in what he termed an 'improved' version of the 2005 package but also suggested eliminating appointed councillors from new seats on the Election Committee to select the next chief executive.

Wong said the FTU had yet to decide on this.

The government's constitutional reform proposal is tipped to be only slightly more liberal than the one vetoed by pan-democrats in 2005, with 10 additional Legco seats - five directly elected and five elected by district councillors - in addition to the existing single, district council functional constituency seat.

If Wong's proposal was supported by the rest of the pro-Beijing camp it would be a significant concession by the bloc, which holds most of the 104 appointed district council seats.

Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of FTU ally the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said his party had yet to discuss the role of appointed district councillors. 'The DAB supported the 2005 package. If a proposal similar to the 2005 one is put forward, we will carefully consider it,' said Tam, who is also an FTU member.

The equal right of appointed district councillors to elect the chief executive and six legislators as their directly elected counterparts was a major criticism raised by pan-democrats four years ago. Two days ahead of the vote on the package, the government offered to phase out all appointed seats by 2016.

'We are not asking for the elimination of appointed district councillors, but excluding them from the Legco functional constituency will reduce controversy and be more widely accepted in the community,' said Wong, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People's Congress.

'It may not be 100 per cent beneficial to ourselves [the pro-government camp], but will be in line with public opinion.'

Pan-democrats were lukewarm.

'We are not interested in these en route proposals,' Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said. 'The government should tell us how it plans to implement universal suffrage in 2017, then we can work on the 2012 and 2016 election methods.'

Civic Party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee said she wanted a roadmap.

'How is the addition of five district councillors in Legco going to lead us to universal suffrage? ... How is multiplying [district council lawmaker] Ip Kwok-him by six leading us to universal suffrage?' she asked.