Minister says no need to reaffirm UN vow

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 April, 2010, 12:00am

The government yesterday refused to reaffirm its pledge to the UN that functional constituencies in the legislature were only a transitional measure before universal suffrage is introduced.

Despite the challenge of pan-democrat lawmakers that it should honour its words or admit to the UN that it had made a U-turn, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung said the trade-based seats, in their current form, did not comply with the principle of equal and universal suffrage.

At yesterday's Legco question time, Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan asked why the government was not honouring its promise made in a 1999 report to the UN which outlined the situation under the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in Hong Kong.

In it, the government, dismissing international criticism that functional constituencies give undue weight to the business sector and discriminate against voters, clearly stating that these seats 'are transitional' because the ultimate aim 'is the election of all members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage'.

Party vice-chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing, who feared Beijing would reinterpret the Basic Law to make functional constituencies compatible with universal suffrage, said: 'Are you going to tell the UN when you submit your next report that you have misled the international community in 1999 and are making a U-turn?'

But Lam said the situation now had superseded that in 1999 when Beijing promised that universal suffrage may, rather than shall, be introduced for the election of the chief executive as early as 2017 and the legislature in 2020.

He also dismissed fears that Beijing may reinterpret the Basic Law.

Meanwhile, pan-democrat lawmakers urged the public to take part in a 3pm rally on Sunday in Victoria Park to fight for universal suffrage.