Universal suffrage best way to preserve HK, says Britain's Hague

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 September, 2010, 12:00am

Introducing a system of universal suffrage in line with 'international standards' is the best way to guarantee Hong Kong's stability and prosperity, British Foreign Secretary William Hague says.

In its latest six-monthly report on Hong Kong to parliament, the British government also notes several controversies involving rights and freedoms, such as arrests of protesters and the confiscation of the Goddess of Democracy statue in the run-up to June 4 commemorations.

In the foreword to the report, Hague welcomed the passage of the constitutional reform package in June and hoped that a spirit of co-operation between the parties concerned would bring further progress with democratisation.

'I firmly believe that Hong Kong's stability and prosperity are underpinned by its rights and freedoms,' he wrote. 'The best way of guaranteeing these is by Hong Kong moving to a system of full universal suffrage in line with the promised timetable and international standard.'

What constitutes universal suffrage has been a matter of dispute between Beijing and Hong Kong and pan-democrats.

Many in Hong Kong believe any system that elects the chief executive and all members of Legco in 2017 and 2020, as promised by Beijing, should not be less favourable than the current international standard for universal suffrage.

The British government report said that in general, the principle of 'one country, two systems' still works 13 years after the handover, with the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration respected.

But the report notes several incidents involving rights and freedoms, in particular the government's confiscation of the Goddess of Democracy statue, which activists displayed in Times Square in the run-up to the 21st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

It also notes the arrest of activists by police during several demonstrations held amid fears that Hong Kong police were hardening their stance toward protesters.