Leung Chun-ying

Division in Legco may hit universal suffrage, Leung says

Chief executive says divisions in Legco create difficulties in obtaining a two-thirds majority that could hinder major electoral reforms

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 December, 2012, 7:07am

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying yesterday said political divisions may undermine hopes of directly electing the chief executive by 2017 and choosing all lawmakers by universal suffrage in 2020.

He said that with a divided legislature, it was difficult to win a two-thirds majority to push through major changes.

Speaking at a "meet the public" forum organised by RTHK, he was addressing a question on how he would achieve direct election of the chief executive and the Legislative Council, and especially the abolition of the council's functional constituencies.

He said: "It's not a matter of whether the government has the determination to do that.

"The Basic Law says that any big changes in Legco will have to be supported by a two-thirds majority. Now we have 70 lawmakers, getting the two-thirds is quite difficult."

Leung said it was "a big challenge" for him to lobby political parties to win backing for his policies. He said: "When you've won support from two parties and go on to the third party, it says something - and then the first party changes views again."

The government has stated its goal is to elect the chief executive and the legislature by universal suffrage in 2017 and 2020 respectively.

Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit said the chief executive's words on universal suffrage were "disheartening".

He said: "He ignored the important fact that he is occupying the pivotal position to bring about consensus ... I wouldn't be surprised if one day he really used this as an excuse for not pushing forward the reform."

Emily Lau Wai-hing, newly elected Democratic Party chairwoman, said Leung had a duty to communicate to Beijing the people's wish for universal suffrage.

She said this was "very clear" and warned: "He'd better not lay the blame on lawmakers."

The RTHK "Voices From the Hall" forum was a relatively peaceful assembly compared with recent meetings Leung had attended, which were punctuated by loud protests inside and outside the venues.

Leung's audience was made up of 95 people - more than one third of whom were aged 40 to 59 and another third over 60 - who had been invited by the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme to attend the session as an audience representative of the city's age and gender structure. They were asked to pose questions concerning three issues - the economy, livelihood matters and politics.

Answering calls for more affordable homes, Leung appealed for public support for increasing building intensity in certain areas, saying some public housing projects often met resistance from people who didn't want their views blocked. Leung also said he would review the town planning process, which was too lengthy for changing land use for building homes.

He said his first policy address next month would offer a five-year blueprint with a focus on housing, poverty, an ageing society and the environment.

He dismissed the idea of handing out cash to all citizens, saying public money should be given only to the needy. He also admitted the controversy over his illegal structures had caused distress to the administration.

Kent Ip Chun-keung, 28, who did not have a chance to ask a question about universal suffrage, said the audience was "rather mild" towards Leung.

He said: "I am scared if this is really a miniature of the society.

"Our society is old but there are many twenty-somethings who are vocal about policy and reform."