Universal suffrage

Legco members must vote for lasting reform

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 June, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 June, 1994, 12:00am

AS the countdown to tomorrow's election debate proceeds, we see and hear widespread opinions about who should vote for what and why.

Some favour maximum subservience to the British tradition, others favour concession to China. Some are clearly concerned about the Governor's future.

Who has thought about what is best for Hong Kong? If we go wild and vote for election procedures that have no chance of continuing beyond 1997, we can be certain that they will be completely dismantled and replaced by a system of Beijing's creation. Many may favour this. But Beijing has stated that they will put politics before economy.

Is that the best for Hong Kong? We could, however, vote for a system which establishes sound principles, that can only be overruled by breach of international agreement or acceptability. This might be better for Hong Kong in the longer term.

What are the foundation stones? The Basic Law spells out the composition of the first SAR Legislative Council.

It uses terms which were defined in the 1984 White Paper and agreed with Beijing. Neither of the main bills conform to these specifications and hence they would give Beijing an unarguable right, in international law, to dismantle the Legislative Council in 1997 and start again.

We are living in a dynamic situation, constantly changing. A decision now based on the past or British practice, could be hopelessly outdated in three years by rapid advances in our society.

We need to look at world trends to see where those advances may be leading. The two main bills are based on past or British practice.

The most easily discernible global trend is towards people's desire to be represented by their primary interest groups rather than the geography of where they live.

People committed to a career or who identify with an ethnic group would often rather be represented by that group than by someone primarily concerned with the conditions around the village or housing estate where they live.

These are regional responsibilities, not primarily legislative. For example, New Zealand, one of the most advanced and innovative democracies in the world, has a Maori constituency because the Maoris are geographically spread, just like people in vocational groups, and would not be heard if not so catered for.

The telecommunications revolution is making people even less concerned with the geography of where they are or live.

Thus geographical constituencies are obsolescent for legislative purposes and will in time give way to other forms of grouping, while not leading to any departure from universal suffrage.

It can be concluded that the first SAR Legco is likely to be based on more widely representative functional constituencies, not in the Patten model of indiscriminate scattering of the vote among all vocations that happen to be working in a field at the time they register, but on a wise and carefully controlled distribution of votes to all those committed to the function, leaving the clerical staff to vote in a clerical constituency, the accounting staff in the accountancy constituency, the cleaners in a labour constituency, and so on.

This might prevent the health care professionals and sub-professions having two separate constituencies while all other professions have only one, but perhaps this would be more democratic anyway.

Universal suffrage can be achieved in this way, but not by the simplistic Patten model.

Hence when I vote tomorrow I will vote for election procedures which I see as best setting the stage for our future democracy at least less prone to being, legally, totally dismantled in 1997.

I will pay no attention to people's political careers or keeping Beijing happy, only legally bound. I believe this will be the best for Hong Kong.

SAMUEL P.W. WONG Legislative Councillor Engineering Constituency