Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit has caused a stir by declaring he "did not mind" accepting anti-subversion legislation in Hong Kong if Beijing allows "genuine" universal suffrage.
He made the comments on an online radio programme, D100, on Friday, when asked if he would accept the controversial law under Article 23 of the Basic Law, provided that the bill did not undermine human rights and freedoms, and universal suffrage was introduced in return.
Leong defined "genuine universal suffrage" as all Hong Kong electors being able to nominate, stand for election and vote.
Leong's remarks drew fire from pro-democracy lawmakers and internet users. One YouTube user wrote: "Article 23 should not be an under-table deal between politicians and Beijing. [Leong's] remarks were total nonsense."
People Power legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip said: "What he said was unwise politically. It sends an inappropriate message to Beijing, the central government's liaison office and the Hong Kong government that Article 23 legislation is tradeable. There should be no trade-off for democracy and human rights. His stance is wrong."
Democratic Party vice-chairman Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong refused to comment on Leong's remarks but stressed his party would not accept any trade-off between universal suffrage and Article 23 legislation.
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress has ruled that Hong Kong can elect its chief executive by universal suffrage in 2017 and its legislature by universal suffrage in 2020. But details of electoral methods have yet to be laid out and are sure to cause controversy.
Leong told the Post last night that in 2003, as the government pressed ahead with legislation, he presented the Department of Justice with a proposal on Article 23 from the Bar Association, of which he was then president.
Leong said the association's version would protect rights and freedoms, and should be adopted in future legislation.
"We would not accept legislation of Article 23 … unless we have universal suffrage," he said.