Pan-democratic parties call for suffrage law

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 October, 2010, 12:00am

Large political parties in the fractured pan-democratic camp have issued a unified demand for the government to introduce one-off legislation laying out a clear roadmap towards universal suffrage.

The call comes despite an earlier split in the camp in the wake of the so-called de-facto referendum and the passing of the government's electoral reform package for 2012.

The demand is in the form of an amendment to the motion of thanks for Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's policy address, which will be debated next week.

Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a member of the Alliance for Universal Suffrage, which negotiated with Beijing for the 2012 package, filed the amendment with the Legislative Council on Wednesday.

It urges the government to immediately launch consultation on one-off legislation that would lead to the implementation of genuine universal suffrage through amendments to the two annexes of the Basic Law that stipulate the methods for electing the chief executive and Legco.

With the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) having barred universal suffrage in Hong Kong in 2012 but deciding that the city might popularly elect the chief executive in 2017 and all lawmakers in 2020, Tong said laws should be made to detail the methods of every chief executive and Legco election until universal suffrage was achieved.

'For example, are functional constituencies to be abolished in two phases? Such matters can be settled by one-off legislation,' he said.

In present practice, the chief executive puts forward a constitutional reform proposal before each chief executive and Legco poll. But Tong said legislating for later elections was also constitutionally viable, because the NPCSC had never ruled against this.

The one-off-legislation plan was advocated by the moderate Alliance for Universal Suffrage this year. The Democratic Party and Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood are both members of the alliance.

The Civic Party and the radical League of Social Democrats have recently pledged support for Tong's amendment, which the barrister said had surprised and delighted him.

'I thought the Civic Party would not be interested in discussing it, as they have been very much against negotiations and have disagreed often with the Democratic Party since the referendum,' he said. 'To my understanding, they [Civic Party members] find it necessary to review the party's position after the vote on constitutional reform.'

But party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee (pictured) said supporting the amendment did not mean a change in stance. 'We have always advocated a roadmap towards universal suffrage ... We can't just sit here and wait. The government should kick-start the process now. How are we going to abolish functional constituency seats? It should give us the roadmap.'

However, the chance of Tong's amendment being passed is negligible. Not only is it opposed by pro-government groups including the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and Economic Synergy, some independent pan-democrats also oppose it.

Independent pan-democrat Cyd Ho Sau-lan said: 'Are the political parties giving up their pledge they made in their 2008 election platform? Are they giving up the fight for universal suffrage in 2012?'