Unite or fail, alliance leader Joseph Cheng tells pan-democratic parties

Joseph Cheng says universal suffrage fight at risk if parties cannot agree on a proposal

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 January, 2014, 4:12am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 January, 2014, 4:40am

Pan-democratic parties must unite or risk letting down their supporters and hindering the fight for universal suffrage, a leading democracy campaigner warned yesterday.

Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, convenor of the Alliance for True Democracy, was speaking amid heated debate between the Democratic Party and People Power on whether to treat all three planks of a proposal on how to nominate candidates for chief executive as "indispensable".

Cheng confirmed yesterday that the alliance had agreed not to include the term "indispensable" in the proposal, which sets out three ways in which candidates could go forward to the public vote in the 2017 election: public nomination, nomination by parties or via the nominating committee stipulated in the Basic Law. The nominating committee would approve candidates nominated under the other two strands as a formality.

Instead, Cheng said, the alliance would emphasise that the proposal should be taken as a "whole". It is seen as a way to give the public a say in choosing candidates and overcome concern that the committee will filter out hopefuls critical of Beijing.

The Democratic Party opposes bundling the three strands, drawing criticism from the radical People Power.

"If we split, we will be letting our supporters down, and it will greatly weaken our power in struggling for universal suffrage," Cheng told RTHK. "We have always wanted to table one single proposal, as it would be better than each political party having a proposal of its own."

The alliance is made up of 26 of the 27 lawmakers in the pan-democratic camp.

Speaking on the same programme, Democrats chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said there was no "rift" between her and Cheng. She said the Democrats supported the three-track proposal and a poll that would give dissident voices a chance.

But People Power member Christopher Lau Gar-hung telephoned the show to say the Democrats should quit the alliance "if they refused to back the alliance's proposal as an entity".

With a five-month consultation on reform in full swing, not even the Lunar New Year will be clear of politics, with the government using traditional good-luck posters to encourage debate.

Undersecretary for constitutional affairs Lau Kong-wah revealed that officials would distribute fai chun posters during the holiday, which starts later this month. Rather than having a traditional message, the posters would encourage discussion of political reform. Officials would also demonstrate their calligraphy skills by writing fai chun.

Lau was also asked to respond to comments by German consul Nikolaus Graf Lambsdorff, who in an interview published yesterday said that universal suffrage should be defined as giving everybody the right to run for office, as well as to vote.

"Political views shouldn't be an element for [hopefuls to be] screened out, this is certain," he said. However, he added that "there is no single standard in the world [for universal suffrage]."

In his interview with the fortnightly Harbour Times, Graf Lambsdorff risked the ire of Beijing by joining the debate on Hong Kong's democratic development. The central government has often criticised outsiders for attempting to influence Hong Kong's political landscape.

"With universal suffrage, our understanding is everybody has a vote and everybody can run. That's the real issue here," Graf Lambsdorff said.

The local office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could not be reached for comment.