Pan-democrats refocus efforts on functional constituencies

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 November, 2009, 12:00am

The proposed de facto referendum on universal suffrage could focus more on opposing the preservation of functional constituencies, in an attempt to avert any consideration by central authorities of re-interpreting the meaning of universal suffrage in the Basic Law.

The renewed focus comes as the public appears to be angered by suggestions from top government officials that functional constituencies may be preserved, albeit in a modified form.

People also appear to be concerned that the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) could re-interpret the Basic Law to allow the continued existence of functional constituencies.

One Civic Party member involved in hammering out the details of the de facto referendum plan said there was noticeably more interest from the public over the scheme when seen in the context of a possible re- interpretation. 'People don't like to be told that universal suffrage is defined by Beijing,' the member said.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung and Maria Tam Wai-chu, of the Basic Law Committee and an NPC deputy, recently dismissed talk of a re-interpretation of the Basic Law by the body as 'speculative'.

However, Civic Party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee said concerns remained because the government was trying to put off discussing whether the functional constituencies complied with international principles of universal and equal suffrage.

She also stressed the right to stand for election, which was not equally applied when only people in certain professions or business sectors could act as functional constituency lawmakers. 'We are very concerned the government is pulling the wool over the public's eyes,' Eu said. 'They keep trying to put off discussing this until after 2012, but we all know that if the NPCSC is going to move on this, it only takes a few weeks.'

She said the by-election referendum plan would give the public a chance to vote against the preservation of functional constituencies. 'Hopefully, this will avert any impulse for an NPCSC interpretation,' Eu said.

During an RTHK City Forum debate yesterday, both Lam and Tam stressed the issue of functional constituencies would not be discussed at present because it was difficult to reach a consensus on the issue.

But League of Social Democrats chairman Wong Yuk-man said: 'You distorted the consensus with a re- interpretation in 2004 [on the earliest date for electoral reform] and a decision in 2007 ruling out universal suffrage in 2012.

''Speculative'? It's not as if this would be the first time.'