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  • Apr 16, 2014
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CommentInsight & Opinion

The key step to universal suffrage

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 May, 2013, 3:06am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 May, 2013, 4:23am

On April 24, I announced the launch of Hong Kong 2020 to provide a platform for seeking views on how, as a community, we can work towards a consensus on the constitutional changes necessary to achieve full universal suffrage for election of the chief executive in 2017 and all members of the Legislative Council by 2020.

Members of Hong Kong 2020 have a long track record of promoting the cause of more democratic government in Hong Kong. In the coming months, we will build on this to reach out to as wide a cross- section of the public as possible, including representatives of the business sector, the professions, academia, district-based organisations and youth groups. Among other things, we will make maximum use of the internet to solicit public views and feedback on our emerging ideas.

We will then move on to develop a series of proposals for submission to the government on changes to the composition of Legco in 2016, on the election of the chief executive in 2017 and on elections to Legco in 2020.

We are approaching our task without preconceived ideas and we are ready to listen to different views and concerns. Our only bottom line is that the final package of constitutional changes must be faithful to the core principles of universal and equal suffrage. These principles are enshrined in Article 25(b) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is applied to Hong Kong by Article 39 of the Basic Law. They are also specifically safeguarded by Articles 26, 45 and 68 of the Basic Law which provide respectively for the right of permanent residents to vote and to stand for election, and for election of the chief executive and members of Legco by universal suffrage.

I have been asked by some why I still believe it is worthwhile to launch this new initiative, given that so many previous proposals for constitutional reform (including those developed under the auspices of my former Core Group in 2007 and its successor, the Citizens’ Commission on Constitutional Development) have basically fallen on deaf ears. The answer is very simple: I and my colleagues in Hong Kong 2020 remain passionate about the cause of universal suffrage; we believe that genuine universal suffrage, on the basis of “one man, one vote”, is the best means of giving legitimacy to the chief executive, securing good governance, maintaining our lifestyle and preserving the rule of law and the rights and freedoms we currently enjoy.

There is a lot at stake. If the final model of universal suffrage falls short of public expectations, the inevitable outcome will be increasing political discord and social disharmony. This will have consequences for Hong Kong’s economic prosperity and success as an international centre for trade and finance, which depend on stability and good, clean and effective government.

This is why it is important that our business community use their influence to help build a consensus in Hong Kong and to assure their contacts in Beijing that Hong Kong people can be trusted to exercise their votes judiciously, in the best interests of Hong Kong and the motherland.

In his election platform last year, our chief executive gave a firm commitment to proceed – in accordance with the “five steps” specified by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress – to reform the 2016 Legco functional constituency elections and expand the electorate to enhance the representativeness of the members. He also undertook to engage the public and seek to gain the support of the central government and Legco to achieve universal suffrage for the chief executive election in 2017 and lay the groundwork for election of Legco by universal suffrage in 2020.

But far from setting out a clear road map to the fulfilment of these promises, the chief executive repeatedly refuses to say when consultation will begin. More ominously still, a government source has recently suggested that the five-step process will not be necessary, because preliminary soundings with political parties indicate no strong views in favour of significant changes to Legco in 2016.

It is inconceivable that any of the prodemocracy parties would send such a message.

The fact is that significant changes to the composition and electoral arrangements for the 2016 Legco are essential if there is to be any chance of achieving full universal suffrage in 2020. Consequential amendments to the Electoral Affairs Commission Ordinance will need to be enacted at least 12 months ahead of the 2016 election and sufficient time will be needed to devise a package of proposals that can secure the necessary support of two-thirds of Legco members.

Changes to the composition of functional constituencies in 2016 are also essential to pave the way for establishment of the future nominating committee that will nominate candidates for election of the chief executive in 2017. Under the terms of Article 45 of the Basic Law, this committee must be “broadly representative” of the community, something which the current 1,200 member Election Committee clearly is not. A fresh approach will be required to ensure that the composition of the nominating committee reflects fairly the make-up of Hong Kong society and that anomalies such as corporate voting, which enable some individuals and entities to control multiple votes, are removed.

The failure of the government to take the lead in addressing these complex issues is frankly shameful. For our part, Hong Kong 2020 stands ready to support a process of consultation and reform that is open and transparent, inclusive of different views, and truly representative of the concerns and aspirations of the majority of Hong Kong citizens.

In so doing, we will spare no effort to help bring to reality the promises of universal suffrage which Beijing and our chief executive have made to the people of Hong Kong.

Anson Chan is convenor of Hong Kong 2020

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Remitting Prosperity
Let me ask you something Captam; do you think that Hong Hong, and indeed all democratic countries, would benefit from being governed by the same system as that of the Great, Glorious, and Always Correct Chinese Communist Party?
Surely you wish everyone to share the benefits of this system?
captam
Your cynical and sarcastic write-off of the CCP “as the Great, Glorious, and Always Correct Chinese Communist Party” demonstrates your inability, without bias, to analyze and fairly compare the strengths and weaknesses of multiparty and single party systems. The CCP has overall, during the past four decades done a remarkable job in maintaining stability and bringing the world’s most populous country out from the dire circumstances prevailing in their nation following a half century of civil wars and famine. The early 20th Century turmoil in China, by the way, was ignited by misguided attempts to introduce Western style democracy. Democracy will eventually fail Europe..........as it has done already in post-colonial Africa and those Middle East countries which have recently seen their autocratic leaders toppled by Western interference. Watch this space!
Remitting Prosperity
I see you haven't answered the question as to whether Communist rule would be good for Hong Kong- can't say I'm very surprised.
The only regimes that have collapsed in Europe over the last 40 years have been Communist ones. No one here wants them back.
I notice you say that the CCP has done a good job over the last four decades. That would include quite a chunk of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution wouldn't it? And what about the 20 years before that? Remember Mao? What is there to stop someone like him coming to power again in China? Nothing at all.
the sun also rises
The down-below guy nicknamed Captain is just trying to mislead our beloved readers and writers alike about the content of our respectable Conscience of Hong Kong,Mrs Anson Chan's brilliant article concerning our rights in a universal suffrage.She quoted in her article what are written in our Basic Law:artilces 26, 39, 45 and 68 only since these all state that in a universal suffrage,all citizens (the qualified voters) should enjoy the right to vote and to be voted (run for office) without any so-called a screening mechanism nor a primary poll to screen out any so-called unwelcomed elements in Beijing's eyes ! Who is misleading Hongkongers ? Maria Tam wai-chu or our Anson Chan ? Of course it is the former one ! How wicked and evil-minded this old maid was and is ! Shame on her !!
captam
Anson Chan is only cherry-picking the bits of the Basic Law she wants to read and 'thinks' she understands.
However:
1. “No man means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous.” --Henry B. Adams
2."It may say that, but my training as a lawyer tells me that it may not mean what it says" --Mahatma Gandhi (reputedly):
the sun also rises
yeah,our respectable former chief secretary, Mrs.Anson Chan has rightly pointed out that according to the UN's International Covenant on Civil & Political Rightsarticle 25(b) and our Basic Law articles 39,26, 45 and 68,in a universal suffrage,we Hongkongers should have the right to vote and to be voted.That means we should have the right to elect our chief executive in 2017 and our lawmakers in 2020 through a 'one man,one vote' so as to conform to the Basic Law and the UN's Covenant.Right ? Thanks.Mrs.Chan for your efforts in studying the Basic Law and clearly points out the rights we Hongkongers are allowed to enjoy in a universal suffrage.Barvo ! Unlike the deputy director of Basic Law,Mrs Maria Tam Wai-chu who has long been telling us we only have the right to vote but not to be voted as the British colonial government abandoned the Covenant in 1976 when we were still under a colonial rule----no so-called a universal suffrage as earlier pointed out by our righteous chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission,Dr.York Chow !
johnyuan
The article by far is the most sensible talk on the roadmap to universal suffrage. It is a beginning and Anson Chan has made a convincing introduction. Let all parties and citizens in Hong Kong begin discussion – filling in the substance and not just slogans for political reform.

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