Hong Kong government unveils crucial reports on universal suffrage for 2017
'Mainstream opinion' is that only a committee should have power to nominate candidates for chief executive, who should 'love the country and love Hong Kong', reports state
Joyce Ng, Ng Kang-chang and Jeffie Lam
This afternoon the government kick-started the formal process of reforming the way Hong Kong selects its leader in time for the next chief executive election in 2017.
In two reports – one delivered by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to lawmakers, and one that will be delivered by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to Beijing – the government stated that the “mainstream opinion” in Hong Kong was that only a nominating committee should have the power to elect the city’s next leader.
Watch: Students respond after Carrie Lam unveils report on universal suffrage for Hong Kong in 2017
The reports also state that Hongkongers “generally agree” that reform should be strictly in accordance with the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, and that the next chief executive should be a person who “loves the country and loves Hong Kong”.
The top officials reported “considerable views” that the nominating committee should be expanded from the 1,200-strong Election Committee which has until now selected the city’s leader – but also noted “quite a number of views” that the number of members should stay the same.
Almost 800,000 had called for the public to be allowed to nominate candidates for the top job in an unofficial referendum organised by the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement.
The chief executive made no mention of the Occupy poll, or the July 1 pro-democracy rally which organisers say was attended by more than half a million people, in his report to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC).
But the report does state that "a number of groups and members of the public" expressed "divergent" views after the consultation period "through different ways and channels".
Occupy plan to stage an open-ended mass sit-in on Central streets if the government's official plan for the 2017 election – expected later this year – fails to guarantee voters a genuine choice between candidates.
Pro-democracy leaders have also suggested that a campaign of non-cooperation could begin before the government delivers its plan.
Beijing has repeatedly rejected public nomination as unconstitutional, while it’s proponents say that a nominating committee stacked with Beijing-friendly members will only put forward candidates for the election that the central government approves of.
The reports, which appear intent on drawing a line under public nomination, are unlikely to satisfy the pro-democracy camp, meaning the contentious battle over universal suffrage continues.
Both reports also concluded that the public "generally agrees" that there was no need for further major reform of the way the Legislative Council is elected, disappointing those who had called for a reduction in or the abolition of functional constituency seats, which are not elected by the general public.
Lam's report summarised the results of a five-month consultation with the public during which the government received some 124,000 submissions.
Later today, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying will submit his report to the NPCSC asking it to approve political reforms, marking the first step of the year-long reform process.
The chief secretary's report is available to read here.
The chief executive's report is available to read here [scroll down for English version].
As the reform process enters its next crucial phase, some key questions will have to be answered. The Post will be updating these with the answers provided by the two reports as the day progresses.
Q1: How many people should form the nominating committee for naming chief executive candidates, and how should it be formed? Should it follow the existing framework of the Election Committee that comprises four sectors?
Chief Executive: There are relatively more views that the composition of the nominating committee should be decided by reference to the existing method [of comprising the Election Committee] of four sectors in equal proportion, in order to meet the requirement for being "broadly representative".
Chief Secretary: There are relatively more views that the composition of the nominating committee should be decided by reference to the existing four sectors of the Election Committee in equal proportions.
Q2: How many candidates should the nominating committee select for the chief executive election?
Chief Executive: There are two views. One is that it is necessary to fix the number of candidates. The other is that there is no need to restrict the number of candidates. For those who consider that there is a need to cap the number of candidates, some suggest setting the number of candidates at two to three.
Chief Secretary: There are two major views. One is there is a need to ensure the solemnity of the election and allow voters to have sufficient understanding of the candidates’ manifestos and missions, and hence it is necessary to fix the number of candidates. Of them, some suggest setting the number at two to three because the number of candidates in the past chief executive elections was around two to three. The other view is that there is no need to restrict the number of candidates.
Q3: What is the minimum number of supporting nominating committee members one must gain in order to be permitted to stand in the election?
Chief Executive: There are quite a number of views that a person contending for nomination has to obtain support from at least a certain proportion of nominating committee members. Some consider that the nomination threshold should remain at one-eighth of the membership. There are other proposals, including “civic nomination”, “party nomination”, outside of the nominating committee.
Chief Secretary: There are quite a number of views that a person contending for nomination has to obtain support from at least a certain proportion of nominating committee members so as to demonstrate that such a person has cross-sector support in the nominating committee. Some consider that the nomination threshold should remain at one-eighth of the membership, like the existing Election Committee. There are also some organisations and people suggesting other proposals, including introducing “civic nomination”, “party nomination”, outside of the nominating committee.
Q4: Do members of the public outside the nominating committee have a right to nominate candidates?
Chief Executive: [Leung does not mention Occupy Central’s referendum nor the July 1 pro-democracy march at all in his report] I am aware that after the conclusion of the ... consultation, a number of groups and members of the public still expressed their wishes and aspirations concerning the implementation of universal suffrage for the chief executive election through different ways and channels, and their views remain divergent.
Although there were professional bodies of the legal sector pointing out that public nomination was not in compliance with the Basic Law, it is worth noting that there were still considerable views after the conclusion of the consultation the element should be included in the nominating procedures.
The general public of Hong Kong would agree that specific proposals should be formulated within the Basic Law... In the next round of consultation, the HKSAR government will continue to strive to narrow the differences amongst different sectors and members of the Legco, to seek common ground in a peaceful, rational and pragmatic manner.
Chief Secretary: The mainstream opinion from the consultation exercise is that Article 45 of the Basic Law has already made it clear that the power to nominate chief executive candidates is vested in the nominating committee only. The committee has the substantial power to nominate. Such power should not be by-passed.
Q5: How should the Legislative Council be reformed for the next election in 2016? Should the half-and-half ratio of members from directly-elected geographical constituencies and the trade-based functional constituencies (FCs) be maintained? Should corporate voting in FCs be abolished?
Chief Executive: The public generally agrees that efforts should now be focused on the chief executive election method. As relatively substantial amendments had been made for Legco reform in 2012, it is generally agreed that there is no need to amend annex II of the Basic Law regarding the method for forming Legco in 2016.
Chief Secretary: Same as chief executive's report.
Q6: Are there particular criteria for candidates for chief executive?
Chief Secretary: Mainstream opinion shows that the chief executive should be a person who loves the country and Hong Kong. Relevant provisions in the Basic Law have already adequately reflected such a requirement.
Chief Executive: The community generally agrees that the chief executive should be a person who “loves the country and loves Hong Kong”.
Q7: Should “one person, one vote” be granted first even if views on other elements of the reform (e.g. nomination method) remain split?
Chief Executive: Having fully considered the views of... different sectors, I am of the view that the community generally hopes that universal suffrage for the chief executive election could first be implemented in 2017, so that over five million eligible voters in Hong Kong could elect the next chief executive, thereby taking an important step forward in the constitutional development of Hong Kong.
Q8: Can the future chief executive be affiliated to a political party?
Chief Secretary: At present, the law allows members of political parties to run for the office of chief executive, but if one is elected, he is required to make a declaration that he is to withdraw from his party. There was not much discussion on this during the consultation. There are roughly as many views supporting relaxation of such a requirement as views against.