Apply global standards in voting, Britain says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 November, 2009, 12:00am

Britain has called for universal suffrage in Hong Kong that is in line with international standards, which it says will be the best guarantee of the city's stability and prosperity.

In a statement covering London's reaction to the Hong Kong government's political reforms proposal, the British government also asks those who want to retain functional constituencies to explain how that could meet the international standards of universal suffrage. The statement was issued by the British consulate in Hong Kong yesterday.

While the proposal calls for more seats in the legislature and for expansion of the committee that selects the chief executive, opponents say this does not go far enough. They want functional constituencies abolished.

But Hong Kong officials have viewed as impractical any change that may go beyond rules laid down by the National People's Congress Standing Committee, which ruled in 2007 that the city 'may' directly elect its chief executive in 2017 and that full democracy for forming the legislature would follow in 2020. But half of the seats in the legislature should still be returned by functional constituencies in 2012.

Britain said: 'We would not wish to prejudge or to risk accusations of attempting to influence the public consultation. But following the public consultation, if [the Legislative Council] is able to respond positively to what the government proposes for 2012, then members can be assured that the [United Kingdom] and the international community will continue to take a close interest in political developments.'

It would be important that plans for 2017 and 2020 met accepted world standards of universal suffrage. 'The chief executive [Donald Tsang Yam-kuen] has said that functional constituencies in their present form are not compatible with principles of universal suffrage. If functional constituencies were to be preserved beyond 2020, it would be up to their supporters to explain how they were compatible with accepted international standards of universal suffrage.'