Universal suffrage in Hong Kong

Carrie Lam denies bias in official reports on public reform views

Chief secretary says government 'did not evade divergent views' in reports that did not directly mention July 1 rally, Occupy referendum or screening fears

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 July, 2014, 11:30am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 January, 2018, 12:49pm

Hong Kong's No 2 official has denied accusations that government reports on public opinion of political reform actually ignored the people's views.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government "did not make choices" in the reports based on the views gathered during a five-month consultation.

The reports, delivered by Lam to lawmakers and by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to Beijing, were intended to sum up about 124,000 submissions received after the government sought views on how the city should elect its next leader.

Leung's report represents the first in a five-step process to achieve universal suffrage for the chief executive election in 2017.

The reports concluded that "mainstream opinion" in Hong Kong holds that only a nominating committee should have the power to put forward chief executive candidates.

But pan-democrats condemned the documents for ignoring public demands for genuine universal suffrage - such as the voices of the almost 800,000 people who voted in an unofficial referendum, in which all of the shortlisted plans called for the public to be allowed to nominate candidates.

Beijing has repeatedly rejected public nomination as incompatible with the Basic Law, but the plan's proponents say that a nominating committee stacked with Beijing loyalists would only screen out unwanted hopefuls.

There was no direct mention of the July 1 march in the city, the Occupy poll or concerns about screening in either report.

Speaking on RTHK yesterday, Lam reiterated that "there are issues with divergent views, and the government did not evade the different opinion expressed about those [issues]".

She said the phrase "generally agree" meant that the public had little disagreement, for example, on the idea that the chief executive must "love the country and love Hong Kong".

Countering pan-democrats' criticisms, Lam also insisted the government was right in saying city residents "generally agree" on keeping the current system in which functional constituencies make up half the legislature.

Referring to the notion it is a "mainstream opinion" that the nominating committee's power should not be challenged, Lam explained that the phrase meant that a majority agreed on an idea, but the non-mainstream view should not be omitted.

She explained that the term "relatively more" refers to a majority opinion that was countered by an alternative view held by a certain group, rather than just a handful of people.

For instance, the reports mention that "relatively more view" favourably using the 1,200-strong Election Committee's four-sector model as a basis for forming a nominating committee, while some believe the committee should be much smaller.

Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-Keung said Lam's explanation still failed to clear up doubts about "selective" nominations.

"Public nomination has majority support in a number of opinion surveys. Why it wasn't classified as mainstream? And ... why were some [minority] views excluded from the report?"

Lam was asked whether protests could be triggered when Beijing decides on the reforms in August. "It's possible. From experience in 2004 and 2007, some may believe that there will be 'guiding restrictions'," she said.

While the government's reports were condemned by pan-democrats, Communist Party mouthpiece the Global Times praised them as a reflection of opinion in Hong Kong.

"This report should be the main reference for the central government to judge what Hong Kong's reality is when it implements the Basic Law," it said.