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  • Sep 20, 2014
  • Updated: 8:57am
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ELECTORAL REFORM

Beijing-loyalist Maria Tam says the right to be elected is not universal

Head of city's delegation to the NPC says central authorities may need to interpret Basic Law's provisions for universal suffrage

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 March, 2013, 8:25pm
UPDATED : Monday, 01 April, 2013, 4:02am

Veteran Basic Law Committee member Maria Tam Wai-chu yesterday weighed in on the debate over how universal suffrage should be implemented in 2017, saying an interpretation of the Basic Law by Beijing could be the last option.

Speaking on a television talk show, the head of the Hong Kong delegation to the National People's Congress dismissed a UN Human Rights Committee's report on Hong Kong. The report expressed concern at the "lack of a clear plan to institute universal suffrage" and possible limits on who can stand for election.

Tam said the UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights indicated that the right to vote, not the right to nominate or be elected, was universal.

Tam's remarks, seen as controversial, came after Qiao Xiaoyang , chairman of the National People's Congress Law Committee, hinted at introducing a screening mechanism ahead of the chief executive election in 2017.

Qiao also said that, under the "one country, two systems" principle, a chief executive had to "love the country and love Hong Kong", and that Beijing would have the final say on who became the city's chief.

During the talk show, Tam was asked whether Beijing should interpret the Basic Law to decide how universal suffrage would be carried out.

She responded: "The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress is very busy, and they try their best not to interpret the Basic Law.

"No one, including the central government … wants to do an interpretation of the Basic Law. But if there is a problem Hong Kong cannot solve by itself, then there is a need for an interpretation."

She also cited China's constitution, which mandated the Communist Party to govern the country according to socialism.

She added that under the Basic Law, the chief executive is accountable to the central government. Since the chief executive exercised the power entrusted to him by the constitution and the Basic Law, he had to respect both, she said.

"If you oppose the central government - that is, intend to overthrow the Communist Party or change the practice of socialism - you are violating the constitution and should not be allowed to exercise the powers [of the chief executive]," Tam said.

In response to the UN's concerns, Tam said Article 25(b) of the covenant was not applicable to Hong Kong because the British reserved the right not to apply it to the city in 1976. Later, Tam said on City Forum that by allowing every registered voter over the age of 18 years to vote, the requirements of the covenant on universal and equal suffrage would be met.

In response to a question from the media, a government spokesman echoed Tam's views, saying: "The ability for Hong Kong to achieve universal suffrage originates from the Basic Law and not the [UN covenant]."

Dr Benny Tai Yiu-ting, the University of Hong Kong legal scholar who is now planning the Occupy Central protest movement, slammed Tam's interpretation of the Basic Law as "contrary to common sense".

He pointed out that the UN says that every citizen shall have the right to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections by universal suffrage.

Tam also expressed concern that the Occupy Central movement could reach a stage where it would be difficult for its organisers to keep control.

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hard times !
Maria Tam Wai-chu won by a good margin in that City Forum debate held by RTHK ? WHAT A JOKE ! Her arguments were both weak and without any proofs or legality at all ! Just repeated and repeated what Qiao Xiaoyang had uttered before only ! Like a tape-recorder ! Being an experienced barrister in town and an Exco.& Legco plus district councillor during the Colonial rule of last century, she should be ashamed of herself and her ethics (not to say morality)--an opportunist/speculator in politics to gain benefits for herself only !
Hollander323
I think those readers making comments here, most if not all, have watched the forum themselves. During the forum Maria Tam made good presentation about the legality on what Mr Qiao Xiaoyang , chairman of the National People's Congress Law Committee, have said about election for CE in 2017. But on the other hand, the 2 guests who spoke against, Mr. Lau Yui Siu and Chu Yiu Ming, were rather weak in their arguments and defense.
Very sorry, as far as the debate goes, Ms Maria Tam won by a good margin.
(Go to RHKTV to review the programme to check this out)
hard times !
Nobody in town with sense should take old maid Maria Tam's words seriously ! What is she indeed ? The so-called Basic Law Committee deputy director ( an appointed post---an honorary one of course) has never attemped to defend the interests of we Hongkongers ! Instead, she used to and is still a mouthpiece(like Tai Kung Pao or Man Wui Pao) of her Beijing master who has well-treated her these years ----just like a pet dog ! Right ?
rpasea
Who cares what Maria Tam thinks?
caractacus
Here it comes: the start of the intended perversion of the Basic Law: Orwell's "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
henleyhk
It's obvious that the commies, already resorting to lies and threats, are really scared. I think they know that they don't have a leg to stand on and that the tide of history is flowing against them. Unfortunately, by resisting the will of the HK people, they are risking another middle-class exodus; but I am sure they would prefer an exodus to giving self determination. But that doesn't mean that HK people should give up without a fight.
ruthleelsf
Such blatant distortion of basic concepts of democracy and reversal of what have been promised can only happen in an autocratic system where grievances from injustices prevail - but - it won't be for long. Look at the apartheid in S.Africa and the Soviet Bloc, it may be painful and unpleasant for the average HKongers but we shouldn't be scared by fear-mongers such as Tam. Hers is a role that resemble the triads placing a pot of tangerine in front of your store expecting you to pay due to fear. No fear if we think it is just in our hearts.
hard times !
This old maid named Maria Tam (though an experienced barrister in town) is deliberately misleading innocent Hongkongers and all the qualified voters by saying that Article 25(b) of the UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights indicated 'the right to vote, not the right to nominate or be elected in a universal suffrage '---(a geniune one of course). She is telling lies in broad daylight.Don't be fooled by her words uttered from a loyalist mindset !
22gt7
but Article 25 of the UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions to vote "and to be elected" at genuine periodic elections which shall be "by universal and equal suffrage" and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors...
So was Maria Tam correct in her saying that the UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights indicated that the right to vote, not the right to nominate or be elected, was universal?
lucifer
The fact fo the matter is that we in Hong Kong have been given a gift. The colonial administration helped us to establish a reliable system of law and efficient and corruption free civil service, a system with with checks and balances and the opportunity to rule ourselevs through a democratic process. Democratic reforms up north may well take decades or may only come about after a violent uprising agianst the established dictatorship. We hhere should dfend this gift we have with our souls and not waste this opportunity. If we give it away so easily, it will likely be gone forever. Cherish what you have.

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