‘You moved the goals’: Scholarism protest government’s political reform reports

Students prepare mock Diploma of Secondary Education result slips for officials, giving them top marks in physical education for “moving the goals” on public consultation

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 July, 2014, 1:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 July, 2014, 2:27pm

Student group Scholarism accused the government of “moving the goals” as it protested on Wednesday against two reports on political reform.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was met by protesting students as she attended interviews at RTHK and Commercial Radio alongside Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau Secretary Raymond Tam Chi-yuen.

The students criticised Lam’s report, issued on Tuesday, which summarised public views gathered during a five-month consultation. Scholarism accused the government of changing the yardstick used to measure public opinion during the consultation process.

The students had prepared mock Diploma of Secondary Education result slips for the two officials, which said they had attained top scores in physical education for “moving the goals”, and in reading for “reading the views of the Beijing government”.

Lam received a petition, but not the mock results, from the protesters. She said she was willing to talk to the students if they provided a “suitable time”.

Lam’s report sought to draw a line under demands for the public to be allowed to nominate chief executive candidates for the 2017 election, stating that “mainstream opinion” in Hong Kong was that only a nominating committee should have the power to elect the city’s next leader, while Hongkongers “generally agree” that reform should be strictly in accordance with the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.

Those views were reiterated in Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s report to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee in Beijing, also released on Tuesday.

Callers to Commercial Radio talk show On a Clear Sky on Wednesday expressed discontent with both government reports.

A man surnamed Cheung criticised the government for not proposing any changes in the Basic Law regarding the Legislative Council election in 2016.

“If we fail to move forward in 2016, how can we implement universal suffrage in the legislature by 2020?” he asked.

“North Korea also elects their leader with ‘one man, one vote’ … we would end up with puppet No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 running [for election] if we fail to reform the nominating committee,” Cheung said.

A caller surnamed Wong also worried that voters would not be given a genuine choice on chief executive hopefuls in 2017 if there wasn’t any overhaul in the nominating committee.

Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau Secretary Tam, however, argued that there was still room to make improvements in the legislature even without amending the city’s mini-constitution, such as expanding the franchise of functional constituencies.

He added that the city would not turn into autocracy and the chief executive hopefuls at least had to secure millions of votes before winning the race.

Responding to criticism that the government had failed to include the results of Occupy Central’s unofficial referendum in the reports that would be submitted to central government, Tam conceded that it was a crucial public opinion that should not be neglected.

Tam said he had already relayed the news to Beijing that more than 720,000 Hongkongers backed the proposals for public nomination in the unofficial poll.

In an earlier Commercial Radio interview, Occupy Central co-organiser Benny Tai Yiu-ting said he would not start the movement next month, as some students plan.

He called on the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to wait until October to endorse the Hong Kong report, if the second phase of consultation is to be launched by the end of the year. This would give Occupy Central organisers and the government more time for negotiations.

Tai said he would also wait until about October to launch the movement if negotiations with the government failed, as that would give more time for organisers and the public to prepare for it.

The associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong also said the civil disobedience campaign had entered the “conversation stage”.

“Occupy Central is now fixing a time to meet with the government’s reform task force,” he said.”

“I hope pan-democrats, students’ representatives and the public can also start a dialogue [with local government], but what we need more is a conversation with Beijing. Ultimately, the right to make a decision is vested in the central but not the SAR government.”

Scholarism’s Joshua Wong Chi-fung agreed that October could be a better time for civil disobedience.

However, Federation of Students secretary general Alex Chow Yong-kong said that if Beijing banned civil nomination in August, the federation would begin school strikes in September.

He hoped the move would encourage workers to strike.

“If the government bans civil nomination, do you think regular rallies could change its mind?” he asked.

Echoing other pan-democrats, Tai also blasted both government reports as “inaccurate” and “misleading”.

“For instance, the chief executive doesn’t cite some legal professionals’ opinions that public nomination also complies with the Basic Law,” Tai said.

“And universal suffrage isn’t only about ‘one man, one vote’ but also the right to nominate and the right to be nominated, but [the government] doesn’t mention any of these [definitions].”