Beijing 'bullying HongKongers' over screening of candidates for 2017 election

Civic Party chairwoman says the central government is being 'unreasonable' on 2017

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 January, 2014, 4:59am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 2:38pm

It is Beijing that is ruining the central government's relationship with Hong Kong's pan-democrats with its insistence on screening out candidates from the 2017 election for chief executive, a high-profile member of the camp says.

Civic Party chairwoman Audrey Eu Yuet-mee made the remarks after Executive Council member Cheung Chi-kong said last week that the pan-democrats should work to improve their ties with Beijing, which he said were "worse than [Japanese Prime Minister] Shinzo Abe's".

Eu was referring to the debate over the nominating committee, which the Basic Law stipulates must put forward candidates for chief executive in 2017, due to be the first time the city's top official has been elected by universal suffrage. Pan-democrats want the public and political parties to be able to nominate candidates, and fear that the committee will be used to keep critics of Beijing away from the public vote.

"You [Beijing] are the one being unreasonable and bullying Hongkongers, and then you say our relationship is not good," Eu told TVB. "Are you turning the tables on the victims?"

Pan-democrats have been divided over the details of a proposal the Alliance for True Democracy will submit to the government's consultation on electoral reform. The alliance, which represents 26 of the 27 pan-democratic lawmakers, wants a three-pronged approach in which the committee will ratify as a formality nominations from parties and the public, as well as putting forward candidates.

Moderates from the Democratic Party say that not all of the three routes to nomination should be seen as "indispensable", while the radicals of People Power argue otherwise.

"Letting all voters put forward candidates is the most effective means to counter screening," said Eu, a former lawmaker.

She said the public should insist on public nomination, which Beijing loyalists say is unconstitutional and would not be approved by the central government, adding: "Why should we give up simply because we think Beijing would not allow it?"

Meanwhile Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing yesterday renewed his call for different sectors of society to forge a consensus on reform.

And Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung took to the Sunday talk-show circuit to dismiss criticism from former government No2 Anson Chan Fang On-sang that the government's consultation on reform was "dishonest" because it failed to set out some key principles of universal suffrage.

"It may not be helpful to discuss an international standard [of universal suffrage] … because there is no international standard as such," Yuen told ATV's Newsline. He said Chan's criticism was "not fair" and that the paper had sought to "crystallise" the issue by focusing on provisions in Article 45 of the Basic Law.

Chan, a former lawmaker, lambasted the consultation document in her capacity as convenor of the discussion group Hong Kong 2020, saying that unlike a 2007 consultation, it had not mentioned the principles of universal suffrage set down by the United Nations.

In Beijing on Saturday, vice-chairman of the Basic Law Committee Zhang Rongshun told Hong Kong district council leaders that any attempt to bypass the nominating committee would breach the Basic Law.

"Zhang also made it clear that the seats for the nominating committee should be evenly distributed among the four sub-sectors in order to balance the interests of society," Bunny Chan Chung-bun, chairman of Kwun Tong District Council, said. He was referring to the four groups that made up the election committee that chose previous chief executives: business, professionals, politicians and a fourth bloc made up of labour, religious and social organisations.