• Mon
  • Dec 29, 2014
  • Updated: 5:00am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Hong Kong people must not settle for anything less than universal suffrage

Anson Chan calls on Hong Kong people not to be deterred by the pro-Beijing bias shown in the consultation document for electoral reformand voice their support for universal suffrage

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 December, 2013, 11:29am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 December, 2013, 5:33am

The government has finally published its long-awaited consultation document on methods for selecting the chief executive in 2017 and for forming the Legislative Council in 2016. While Hong Kong 2020 had no great expectations, given that the public had already been advised it would contain no specific proposals, we did not expect it to be quite so lacklustre.

The document is repetitive, full of clichés and, despite the government's commitment to pave the way for an open discussion of options, takes some very uncompromising positions on interpretation of key parts of the Basic Law. The constant falling back on references to interpretations by mainland officials make it all too obvious that, while the document may have been drafted in Tamar, its tone and content was steered from the central government's liaison office in Western.

Hong Kong people must not be hoodwinked by the government's assertion that it is yet to have any position regarding the methods for selecting the chief executive and for forming Legco. A careful reading - not just of what the document says, but more importantly what it doesn't say - gives a strong indication of the sort of package we are likely to be presented with at the end of next year.

With regard to election of the chief executive, the document reminds us, again and again, that under Article 45 of the Basic Law, "the ultimate aim is the selection of the chief executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures".

We are told that when it comes to defining what is meant by "broadly representative", we should assume the term has the same meaning as in the case of the Election Committee. This completely ignores the widely held opinion that the Election Committee is anything but "broadly representative"; on the contrary, it is dominated by pro-Beijing business and professional elites and elected by a mere 240,000 individual and corporate voters - some of whom can vote in multiple sectors and thus wield a totally disproportionate influence on the electoral outcome.

If the future nominating committee is to have credibility, its structure and the size of its electoral base must be different from those of the Election Committee.

Then we come to the issue of the nominating process. Having been told that we must take reference from the Election Committee, the document sends a strong signal that the nominating procedure could be completely different from that of the Election Committee. Up till now, aspiring candidates for the post of chief executive have had to obtain individual nominations from a minimum of one-eighth of Election Committee members (currently 150). However, the document suggests that the future nominating committee should undertake a form of "organisational or collective nomination".

This concept of "organisational nomination" is completely new and has no basis in the Basic Law. It is therefore essential that the government states clearly, now, what exactly is meant by organisational nomination and how it would function in practice, so the public can comment on this option in an informed manner.

In the absence of such clarification, the public can be forgiven for smelling a rat. Despite its shortcomings, the current chief executive nomination system has at least enabled democrat candidates Alan Leong Kah-kit and Albert Ho Chun-yan to enter previous election races. If the government is sincere in wanting to ensure that voters have a genuine choice of candidates in 2017, why the need for radical change?

There can only be one reason. Beijing is determined to put in place a totally fail-safe system: a nominating committee that is under its control and a nomination threshold of many more votes than a democrat candidate can expect to win. Let's not forget that no pro-democracy candidate has won a seat in the National People's Congress in the four rounds of election held since the handover.

Bottom line? Prospective candidates that are acceptable to the central government will survive the nomination process; those deemed unacceptable will be screened out.

When it comes to discussion of possible changes to the method of forming the 2016 Legco, the document's sins of omission are particularly glaring.

First, the elephant in the room, the fact that functional constituencies are fundamentally inconsistent with internationally accepted definitions of universal and equal suffrage, is completely ignored. Worse still, the summary of past and present views on functional constituencies makes no mention that public opinion polls in recent years have shown a large majority backing the abolition of functional constituencies as soon as possible.

Also ignored is the inequity of the current split voting system, under which functional constituency members (in some cases elected by a tiny number of corporate votes and in others returned uncontested, year after year) can vote down the wishes of legislators directly elected in geographical constituencies.

If the outcome of the current consultation is to stand any chance of producing a package of proposals that can be supported by the necessary two-thirds of Legco members, not to mention the general public, then the government must stop ducking and weaving and tackle head-on these contentious but crucial issues.

In the face of so much dissembling on the part of the government, it is hard at times not to feel disheartened. Despite this, I believe it has never been more important for Hong Kong people to speak up clearly for the genuine universal suffrage that has been promised them so long, and not to feel constrained by the inadequacies of the consultation document.

Above all, we must not be tempted to compromise our principles, simply because any form of progress - however flawed - seems better than our present broken system of government. Achieving the good governance we deserve will not be easy, but we must all rise to the challenge.

Anson Chan, a former chief secretary in the Hong Kong government, is convenor of Hongkong2020

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hard times !
Being an alumni of the prestigious old school, St.Joseph's College, this 'whymak' has disgraced his alma mater by siding with an autocratic ruling regime by attacking our 'Mother of Democracy'---former Chief Secretary,Mrs.Anson who is widely and highly respected after her resignation from the SAR administration for objecting the so-called' accountability system of top officials' devised by Mr.C.H.Tung to consolidate his power over the civil servants.Maybe he has interests on Mainland or here in Hong Kong that cause him to attack the democratic system development in the territory plus all the pan-democratic camp elements. Shame on his postings and words uttered here concerning our upcoming universal suffrage indeed ! Shame on him for being an alumni of SJC !
hard times !
Dear and respectable Mrs.Chan,
Your brilliant article concerning the 'Electoral Reform Consultation' paper just released is much appreciated by all righteous Hong Kong people who yearn for a geniune universal suffrage in 2017 for our chief executive election and 2020 for all our lawmakers.To make more Hong Kong people to know about your precious views mentioned above, would you please spare some time to have your article translated into Chinese (by you yourself or some retired experienced Chinese Language officers) and have them released in Ming Pao, Shun Pao (the Hong Kong Economic Review) or the Apple Daily ? Hoping that you will seriously consider my suggestion. Thanks again for your veiws expressed. Most Hongkongers will be grateful to you for your effort.
hard times !
we are not talking about neither anti-C.Y.nor pro-C.Y. stance which is nothing new or of any importance compared with our upcoming universal suffrage in 2017 and 2020 respectively which have huge influence upon our future generations who may probably live in the territory. By any standard or angle,Mrs.Anson Chan's above article was written with both heart and mind, not to say conscience.No doubt,she is nicknamed as,'the Conscience of Hong Kong'.if one sacrifices one's own conscience for one's politcal belief or pursuit or personal interests, he/she will no longer get any respect from any sensible humans since such a person deserves no respect from his countrymen/compatriots as he/she is just a blind loyalist or so-called slave-servant of an autocratic ruling regime only ! Right ?
whymak
Unfortunately, in debates with cultists, morons and illiterates in SCMP pages, arguments must be couched in "attack mode" verbiage that occasionally discombobulates their brainwashed, catatonic state.
"I said, he said" anecdotes, moralistic regurgitations of dogmas are tools of missionaries. Mrs. Chan is just one of the stampeding rhinoceros in Ionesco’s play and a zombie of the Living Dead.
Below is my personal experience last week.
My older sister lives at Mid Levels. She takes cabs frequently for her shopping trips and doctors visits. By every indication, she is no CY Leung fan. A few days ago, she stepped into a proselytizer’s taxi at Caine Road and got nothing but nonstop hate-CY diatribes. The driver wouldn’t open the door until he extracted from this poor old lady a pledge to hate-CY, open nomination and universal suffrage.
How is this behavior different from readers’ sentiments in this page?
Of course, there is much dogmatic gibberish in HK’s Basic Law. Let’s fix it instead of introducing more claptrap from failed Western democracies.
As for her remark, “...functional constituencies are fundamentally inconsistent with internationally accepted definitions..,” her ignorance of US Senate and UK House of Lords needs no rebuttal.
Freedom of speech? You can spend 1.5 hours on this clip about total blackout of speech in democracies:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bh0fjdU3Jp8.
BTW, who says courtesy of speech should be extended to falsehoods and illogicality?
whymak
To Mrs. Chan,
When one gets rid of all irrelevancies, dogmas and hate passion, which is the driver to Western democracy, it’s really simple to get the truth. Good governance is the only issue.
Let's assume we could elect anyone with freedom undreamed of in any society. Actually, it’s absurd mathematically. Nevertheless, we pretend it isn’t.
One issue immediately arises. How do we avoid many pitfalls known to all proven unworkable systems governed by the rule of mediocrity? Here are my 2 humble suggestions.
All elected legislators and CE must pass a short quiz relevant to a bill before being allowed to cast a vote or affix a signature to the legislation. It’s only fair to require politicians do some homework before they are allowed to vote.
For each bill, a large group of questions will be designed to test the understanding of the issue at hand. From which 10 to 15 are randomly chosen for each legislator. This can be easily administered by a computer within 15 minutes.
The second suggestion is prevent the choice between 2 undesirable candidates in many democracies. Instead of just casting 1 vote for a candidate, the voters can cast votes in the following manner, +1 for yes, -1 for no, 0 for don’t care: (+1,+1), (+1,0), (0,+1), (-1, -1), (0,0), (-1,0), (0,-1).
The information content is 1 for conventional voting; mine produces 2.81. Do you want CY to win with only +1000 votes out of a 3M electorate?
HK morons won’t like this. Are you smart enough to understand this?
whymak
Amen to all comments from Democracy cultists and zealots.
As to "In the face of so much dissembling on the part of the government," perhaps the greatest self-deception and dissembler are superstitious folks idolizing declining Western mode of governance as the ONE & ONLY TRUE God.
Will someone be kind enough to explain away all the dubious, conflicting attributes of TRUE Democracy, the daily mantra of Chris Patten's girl, the conscience of Hong Kong?
Aren't dysfunctional government, hateful polarized ideologies - sectarian violence, endless foreign wars of aggression and occupation, slavery, drug traff*cking, malicious "free" speech/slander, etc., all tricks of the trade for Western democracies?
Even the term free media deserves scrutiny. Isn't Tony Blair just Rupert Murdoch's lapdog? Of course, China is evil incarnate. Unlike you cultists, I have this nagging concern that I have succumbed to your manufactured consent, worst, brainwash in your happy echo chamber.
True, unlike you Democracy faithful, I have been cursed by the use of reason, logic, math, sciences and facts. So once more, will you be kind enough to explain to those condemned to Democracy Hell what Democracy is all about? Please, no equivocation with hoity doit jargons such as universal values, freedom, human rights, etc. I prefer operational definitions.
If you talk about freedoms, I want to find how many kinds there are and how you manage the conflicts among them under the Democracy God.
keithkklau@gmail.com
Anson Chan's comment well addressed what Hong Kong people would look for and at the meantime, it is more an unilateral thinking without considering that China will never give Hong Kong an universal suffrage which they cannot tell in advance whom to be elected. In politics, it is the party who has the power to decide the rule of the game. In the worst case, if there is no consensus built, it is the Hong Kong and its people to suffer and China has nothing to lose at all. Those pan-democrats can continue to stand in the moral high ground by refusing to accept the boundaries and compromise but in doing so, I cannot see the values and benefits it can bring to Hong Kong other than consolidating their votes in Legco election. A politician is someone who cares about the well-being of the community while being pragmatic enough to know how and when to compromise in political bargaining to reach a better solution. Whether you like it or not, once Hong Kong sovereignty was back to China, it is simply naïve to believe there will be genuine democracy in Hong Kong. I would be glad to see things to move forward by getting the most out of the boundaries rather than seeing another deadlock. .
impala
Thank the heavens for Ms Chan brining a clear voice of reason to the debate.

In particular, it is good she calls the bluff on the government's sanctimonious pretence that it is wholly neutral in the public consultation. As Ms Chan rightly notes, one doesn't even have to read between the lines to know that the government clearly does have a position, which is in all likelihood set by Beijing. By attempting to control the language, agenda, framework and limitations of the 'consultation,' the government is turning the whole thing into a farce. Large swathes of the public want to at least discuss various options of electoral reform (eg public nomination) that the government pretends do not even exist.

And yes, most importantly - "the elephant in the room, the fact that functional constituencies are fundamentally inconsistent with internationally accepted definitions of universal and equal suffrage."

Hear, hear. If we could indeed begin by fully acknowledging that, and that any electoral reform to achieve universal suffrage would therefore involve the abolishment, or at least radical curtailing of the FC's, we would finally begin to see the start of an honest, realistic city-wide consultation.
johnh
Thank you Ms.Chan. Power to the Hong Kong people!
ianson
Brilliant. Ms Chan has reached a new zenith and, in practice, what it means is Occupy Central is inevitable.

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