Legco president urges all parties not to boycott poll
Fanny W. Y. Fung and Ng Kang-chung
Legislative Council president Tsang Yok-sing has called on political parties from different camps to participate in the forthcoming by-elections, saying that boycotting them would amount to recognising them as a de facto referendum.
His remarks came two days after the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office issued a statement warning that the campaign, pushed forward by the League of Social Democrats and the Civic Party, would be 'fundamentally against the Basic Law' because Hong Kong had no authority to launch a referendum.
'If we boycott [the by-elections], is it not a tacit acknowledgement that it is a referendum? Therefore, my simple logic is that because we treat it as a by-election only, political parties should take part,' he said yesterday.
Tsang, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said he was speaking in a personal capacity. Yet his view was in line with the latest positions of two pro-government parties.
Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, a vice-chairman of the DAB and a possible candidate in the Hong Kong Island constituency, said the central government's statement would not affect his party's decision.
'We have never considered it a referendum. If we run, we will do it in the way we run in a by-election,' Cheung said. He said the DAB's central committee had yet to decide whether to field a candidate and the party would closely monitor the situation after the five pan-democrat lawmakers formally announce their resignations on January 27.
Michael Tien Puk-sun, a core member of the Liberal Party, said his party would weigh the chances of winning when considering whether it should field candidates. Tien, who was also tipped to stand, yesterday said it was too early to say who from his party could be candidates.
At the RTHK programme City Forum, speakers from the pro-Beijing and pan-democratic camps held a heated discussion over the legitimacy of the de facto referendum.
Maria Tam Wai-chu, a local deputy to the National People's Congress and a drafter of the Basic Law, said the mini-constitution had not empowered Hong Kong to conduct a referendum. Andrew To Kwan-hang, vice-chairman of the League of Social Democrats, said power should be returned to the hands of the people.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop emeritus of the Hong Kong Catholic diocese, urged Christians to support the de facto referendum as a way to push forward Hong Kong's democracy movement. At a forum on constitutional reform held by four Catholic and Protestant groups, he called on believers to show their anger at the government's consultation paper, which he described as insulting.
'In every election, we urge people to vote, but we never tell people whom they should vote for... This time it's a bit different. We are not voting for the candidate, but on the issue. We have to use a more sentimental and radical way to express our anger and helplessness ... Don't consider the person. Perhaps you don't like [Wong] Yuk-man, but it doesn't matter,' the cardinal said.
Wong, chairman of the League of Social Democrats, was also a speaker at the forum. He said his group had been asking the Legco Secretariat about the procedures for resignation. Wong and four other pan-democrats who resign will ask to speak for 15 minutes in the Legco meeting next week. They will then make public statements on their resignations.