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  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 2:27pm
NewsHong Kong

Equality chief says UN rules for free elections must be met

First day in job sees York Chow tackle Basic Law heavyweight over meaning of universal suffrage

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 April, 2013, 4:36am

The new chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission believes Hong Kong will have to meet international standards for democratic elections as well as the Basic Law when universal suffrage is introduced.

On his first day in the job yesterday, Dr York Chow Yat-ngok appeared to take on Basic Law Committee heavyweight Maria Tam Wai-chu, who said that the UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights did not apply to Hong Kong as the British had chosen to exempt the city when it came into effect in 1976.

Article 25(b) of the covenant states: "Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity ... to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage."

Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity ... to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage
Dr York Chow Yat-ngok

Tam said that for Hong Kong, universal suffrage meant only the right to vote had to be universal, not the right to nominate a candidate or stand for election.

Chow countered: "We were exempted because there was no universal suffrage then … If universal suffrage is introduced in Hong Kong, I believe we have to meet [the standards in] this treaty, or the criteria committed in the Basic Law. I believe we have to do so."

But when pressed to clarify whether he believes a citizen's right to stand for election must be universal as well, he declined to comment. Political reforms must be introduced as stipulated in the Basic Law, he added.

Article 45 of the Basic Law talks of "the selection of the chief executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures".

Legal experts and pro-democracy activists, including Law Yuk-kai, director of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, criticised Tam for "misunderstanding" the international covenant, and "twisting facts" regarding people's political rights.

Tam's remarks came after Qiao Xiaoyang, the new chairman of the National People's Congress Law Committee and the mainland's top authority on Hong Kong's mini-constitution, hinted at introducing a screening mechanism ahead of the chief executive election in 2017.

In a radio interview yesterday, Chow also weighed into the controversy over the restrictions on taking milk formula for infants out of the city.

He suggested that the administration should review the new rules which sparked an outcry when 12 mainland visitors who had bought instant cereal for babies were wrongly arrested.

"It is not good … for any policy to cause more friction between tourists and residents in Hong Kong," Chow said. "Hong Kong is a free place which allows people to visit and shop, but at the same time we have to protect the need of Hongkongers."



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This article is now closed to comments

hard times !
This former Secretary for health and welfare,Dr.York Chow has courageously spoken his mind---every citizen should have the right to vote and to be elected at geniune periodic elections (such as the upcoming Legco election in 2016 and chief executive election in 2017.) York Chow has slapped Maria Tam's face since she denied our right to nominate candidates and to be elected as chief executive in 2017. Bravo ! York Chow ! Hong Kong people are proud of you and your daring words---contradictory to what Maria Tam claimed openly at a recent City Forum ! Shame on Ms Tam for betraying Hongkongers' rights ! Shame on her !
Hear, hear, Dr Chow!
As Qiao Xiaoyang, Maria Tam, et al. have closed the door on any meaningful government-led consultation process on democracy, let me get the ball rolling. To be democratic, there cannot be any politically-coloured preselection of our CE: not only do we all have the right to elect but also to enjoy a real opportunity of being elected. Article 45 of the Basic Law says there will be a "nominating committee" which must be broadly representative and must be democratic. Having nominated candidates, they are put to the populace for a vote by universal suffrage. The last part is easy, it's so crystal clear: we just have to choose from among the five main known methods: plurality, absolute majority, qualified majority, alternative vote and electoral college. In the 133 democratic presidential elections worldwide from 2001-2011, far and away the most popular is absolute majority, which means there is a run-off election between the two most popular if no one gets 50% first time round. Simple. Let's do it that way. It works fine for 94 democracies including France, Brazil, Finland, Indonesia & Chile. Nomination committee? Need another comment for that.
hard times !
fully agree with what our newly-appointed Chairman of Equal Opportunities Commission, Dr.York Chow who said that Hong Kong should conform to the UN's International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights Article 25(b) which stipulates that ,'every citizen should have the right and opportunity to vote and to be elected at geniune periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage.'Dr.Chow countered Maria Tam(who deliberately distorted the facts) by saying that when the Covenant was put in force in 1976,Hong Kong was exempted from it as at that time we didn't have any universal suffrage, unlike 2017 ! Well said ! Dr.Chow,you are a geniune Hongkonger who speaks the truth and nothing but the truth---differs from a big liar and H.K.traitor,Ms Maria Tam !!
All our problems are in the nominating committee part because there is no existing process for democratically assembling the committee members. We have to create something new if we are to comply with the Basic Law. Clearly, the Election Committee used in the past is miles away from being democratic or representative. Solution: Grant every winning candidate in the geographical and super-seat constituencies in the 2016 Legco election the right to appoint five members to the committee, so that makes a 200-member committee. We don't need 1200. Then they get to select ten from an unlimited field of candidates (who merely have to satisfy the same prerequisites to stand as do those who stand for Legco). Each committee member can cast one vote (that's just one for each) for as many candidates as he/she chooses. The top ten vote-getters are put to the Absolute Majority universal suffrage vote set out in my first comment below.
May the Debate Begin.


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