Hong Kong business elite demand 2017 universal suffrage in open letter

In letter to president, some say they may join Occupy Central if true democracy isn't offered

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 April, 2014, 5:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 April, 2014, 8:27am

Dozens of the city's financial and banking high-fliers have issued an open letter to President Xi Jinping demanding universal suffrage and the protection of Hong Kong's core values.

Some have gone as far as pledging to join Occupy Central, the civil-disobedience movement that threatens to paralyse the business district where their offices are based, if the city does not get true democracy for the 2017 chief executive election.

The letter to Xi from members of the business elite - including hedge-fund managers and former Hong Kong Stock Exchange veterans - lists 10 requests including a level playing field for business, safeguarding the rule of law and universal suffrage.

"There are some of us who earn a few million bucks in US dollars per year," hedge fund manager and core group member Edward Chin Chi-kin said. "But there is much more [at stake] than money ... we hope Xi will remember the promise of one country, two systems."

The group has bought advertising space for the letter in the Financial Times, Apple Daily and Roman Catholic paper Kung Kao Po. It says: "Hong Kong's existing political system has become the stumbling block to the city's long-term social, political and economic growth, and is the root cause of social division and disharmony in Hong Kong."

The letter is addressed to Xi's office in Zhongnanhai, Beijing. Copies were also sent to the director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, Zhang Xiaoming , and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

Chin said they would "exhaust all rational means" to strive for universal suffrage before joining Occupy Central.

A core organiser of the movement, Dr Chan Kin-man, said it would not rule out launching the occupation in July - shortly after a public vote on June 22 to decide which electoral proposal to endorse - instead of waiting for the government to make a proposal.

"We are still contemplating what step to take after the public has shown their stance," Chan said. "If the local or Beijing government has said anything explicit enough to dash our hopes for universal suffrage, we may just conduct [the occupation] even if the official reform proposal is not out by then."

The government's reform consultation ends on Saturday.

He added that an overnight sit-in in Central on July 1, as suggested by Democratic Party member Lee Wing-tat "could also be an option".

Financial services-sector lawmaker Christopher Cheung Wah-fung said: "It is an individual act for them to write to whoever they want … but there is a consensus in the major trade associations that we hope no one would take part in Occupy Central, which would infringe the city's status as an international financial centre."