Anson Chan

Commerce key for universal suffrage, says Anson Chan

Former chief secretary suggests commerce is key to winning genuine democracy as she confirms relaunch of citizens’ commission

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 3:30pm

Former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang emphasised that she hoped to forge a consensus among businesses on the path to genuine universal suffrage, as their participation would be vital to achieving full democracy and improving governance.

Chan said she also remained "keen" on communicating with Beijing in order to persuade the national leadership to trust Hongkongers - in response to National People's Congress Law Committee chairman Qiao Xiaoyang's remarks last month that the city's chief executive must not be confrontational towards the central government.

The city faced an "urgency" to draw up a road map pointing the way to universal suffrage, she said. Towards that end, she would relaunch the nine-strong Citizens' Commission on Constitutional Development, which she founded in 2008 to facilitate public discussion on political reform.

The reborn commission will take the name "Hong Kong 2020", which now has six members. "[I want] to make it clear that we are united in our commitment to meeting the 2020 target date" when universal suffrage would be in place for the chief executive and Legislative Council elections, she said.

Past commission members, including University of Hong Kong law dean Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun, former executive councillor Allen Lee Peng-fei and former Bar Association chairwoman Gladys Li, had joined the new group, while pan-democratic lawmakers Sin Chung-kai and Dennis Kwok Wing-hang would not, she said.

She said she did not want businesses to misunderstand that the group's work was "directed by the agendas of political parties". Former lawmaker Lee Wing-tat, of the Democratic Party, had joined only as a research director.

I know many businessmen are unwilling to step out and discuss electoral reform in the pan-democratic [arena]. So we are particularly anxious to establish a dialogue with [them]

"I know many businessmen are unwilling to step out and discuss electoral reform in the pan-democratic [arena]," Anson Chan said, "so we are particularly anxious to establish a dialogue with … the business sector, through whatever channels it feels are most appropriate.

"The business sector needs to take part actively because electoral reform will affect the business and investment environment directly; they cannot continue to isolate themselves from this debate.

"I also understand that many businesspeople will support true democracy because they know that under the current political system, the government cannot rule the city effectively." She said her group would listen to different sectors without "preconceived ideas". "Our only bottom line is that the final package must be faithful to the core principles of universal and equal suffrage."

Political analysts say Hong Kong 2020 could act as a lobby group in close contact with the Alliance for True Democracy - a coalition of all 27 pan-democratic legislators - and the Occupy Central movement. Spearheaded by law academic Dr Benny Tai Yiu-ting, the movement aims to mobilise at least 10,000 people to block Central traffic in a non-violent way in July next year if the government does not offer an acceptable plan for the 2017 chief executive vote.

Group member Elizabeth Bosher, an educator, said they had no direct relationship with the alliance or Tai. Anson Chan said her group was not funded by foreign donations.