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NewsHong Kong

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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This article is now closed to comments

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."
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.
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.
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?
hard times !
fully agree with jpinst that a Constitutional interpretation of our Basic Law related to the election of chief executive is not required.As everybody knows,'loving the country and Hong Kong' is not written in the Basic Law, so does the conditon:confrontational towards Central authorities.Both are not articles in the Basic Law---our paramount law. So any pre-requisite of candidates for the election in 2017 can not be accepted at all !
My guess is that within the Central Government there are a host of situations where people in positions of power disagree on policy and implementation of policy. Are these people seeking to overthrow the government? No, they just have a sincere desire to see that policies are in the best interests of the people. So how can one say that a person who has opposed policies of the CE is seeking to overthrow the government? Similarly, what is "socialism" as used in the Constitution? It clearly has changed from the ideals that Mao and the nation's founders saw. The nature of socialism changed with Deng, with Jiang and with Hu/Wen. France and Italy arguably have socialist governments. Which is the socialism that is intended. Having different ideas that you share with the Central government as being in the best interests of the people of HK, which is a part of the nation, is hardly counter-revolutionary but rather what Beijing should be seeking is that those voices be heard and implemented into a cohesive policy that maintains harmony in the Mainland and in HK. Top down orders from Beijing via their appointed shill, directing HK people to obey or else hardly is harmonious.
hard times !
my close friend,pflim040 told me he has been hacked by an unscurpulous hacker for 13 times. Yesterday,he recieved an e-mail from an unknown guy (.com.br) asking him to transfer a mysterious attached file to others.How weird it is ! Of course it is a dirty trick attempting to make his computer be spread with virus once he is curious and open that attached file which he didn't. The nasty hacker might probably be not a geniune Hongkonger who knows nothing about Hong Kong people ! What a shame ! If one doesn't understand the customs or practices of a certain place's people,how can he/she tackle/trick them ? He failed once again this morning ! ha ! ha !
A Consitutional interpreation is not required for every issue that faces society or the government. Unless government action or law is challenged, then an interpretation may be possible. Furthrmore, it should not even be challeneged until the Court of Final Appeal at least has a consitutional question in front of it.The eagerness of the Hk government to run to the legislative branch in Beijing for interpetations undermines Hong Kong's legal system and the authority of Hong Kong courts.




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