Occupy Central

Beijing's words will not halt Occupy Central's plans, says organiser Benny Tai

Organiser Benny Tai says city must insist on a reform plan compatible with international standards despite central government's warnings

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 March, 2014, 4:28am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 March, 2014, 9:16am

Occupy Central will go on discussing electoral reform proposals favoured by Hongkongers rather than those Beijing officials prefer, the civil disobedience movement's organiser Benny Tai Yiu-ting said yesterday.

The University of Hong Kong law academic was speaking at Chinese University at the conclusion of the movement's second "deliberation day". He was addressing comments by National People's Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang , who last week warned of "disastrous consequences" if Hong Kong adopted a Western-style of democracy instead of following its mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

Meanwhile, at a plenary session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing yesterday, Hong Kong delegate and CPPCC Standing Committee member Ambrose Lau Hon-chuen criticised Occupy Central's plans as "extreme and illegal".

But Tai said the campaign - which plans to rally protesters to block roads in the city's financial centre if the authorities fail to deliver an acceptable proposal to implement universal suffrage for the 2017 chief executive election - would not change its tactics in response to Zhang's warnings.

"Right from the start, we were talking about a proposal compatible with international standards, not one most likely to be accepted by Beijing," Tai said.

"It is Hongkongers' choice whether they will change stance after Beijing officials' comments. Our job is to organise [discussions] for proposals to be made, to have a popular vote for the people to make a final decision - and we will fight for that [proposal] endorsed by the people."

Occupy Central will host its third "deliberation day" on May 6 to discuss ideas for electoral reform. A citywide poll will take place on June 22 to decide the most popular proposal.

In response to Zhang's warning about Western-style democracy, Tai said his group had been calling for universal suffrage to be compatible with international standards because the Basic Law's Article 39 states that "provisions of the [UN's] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights … as applied to Hong Kong shall remain in force and shall be implemented" after the handover. That covenant stipulates that every citizen should have the right "to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage".

Last month, HKU interviewed 454 of Occupy Central's 2,000 supporters, asking them to weigh the significance of 18 principles in the discussion on the 2017 chief executive poll. All respondents said it was "important" for suffrage to be "universal and equal" - as enshrined in the covenant.

The poll was conducted by HKU's public opinion programme director Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, who was last week criticised by tycoons Henry Cheng Kar-shun and Peter Lee Ka-kit as "biased" and for "publishing poll results unfavourable to the central and local governments". Chung reiterated his "neutrality" yesterday.

Meanwhile, about 30 activists from the League of Social Democrats and student-led protest group Scholarism rallied outside the central government's liaison office yesterday. They criticised Zhang for making comments that dimmed the public's hopes of being allowed to nominate candidates for chief executive.