POLITICS
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Universal Suffrage

Pro-Beijing camp betting voters will blame pan-democrats if universal suffrage fails: Ronny Tong

But pan-democrats think the opposite, meaning compromise is unlikely to be reached, says Civic Party lawmaker

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2014, 6:07pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2014, 7:25pm

Different political calculations on the likely fallout from failure to achieve universal suffrage in 2017 are getting in the way of compromise on political reform, a moderate pan-democrat says.

Many Beijing-friendly figures believe the democrats would suffer a huge setback in the 2016 Legislative Council election if proposals for the chief executive election a year later fell through, Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tony Ka-wah said.

But democrats think the exact opposite, meaning neither side saw any incentive to compromise.

“[Beijing’s allies] think pan-democrats would take the major blame for failure to attain full democracy in 2017,” Tong said on the RTHK phone-in programme Talkabout on Wednesday.

“On the other hand, many pan-democrats believe that their candidates would fare pretty well in the 2016 election if universal suffrage fails to be attained,” he said,

He called on both Beijing and fellow pan-democrats to set aside their preconditions to create a better atmosphere for meetings on political reform.

Nineteen pan-democratic lawmakers asked Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor at a meeting on Wednesday to help set up meetings with mainland officials to discuss political reform for the 2017 chief executive election.

But Tong said the talks would not be meaningful if pan-democrats insisted on nomination of candidates by the public and Beijing stuck to its favoured block-voting system.

“Many pan-democrats are inclined to capture the moral high ground, making dialogue with Beijing difficult,” he said.

Tong said both sides needed to set aside their preconditions.

“For example, will pan-democrats insist on holding the talks under media spotlight or that all 23 pan-democratic lawmakers must join the meeting?” he asked.

Under the block-voting system suggested by some Beijing-friendly groups, each member of the nominating committee would have multiple votes, depending on how many candidates were put forward for popular vote.

This is similar to the system used to select Hong Kong deputies for the National People’s Congress. But it would mean a candidate with the support of a minority of nominating committee members, but who was not popular with the majority, would have no chance of getting on the ballot paper.

Democrats want voters and political parties to have the right to nominate candidates.

But Beijing has rejected this as being against the Basic Law under which candidates would have to be put forward by a nominating committee.

Tong said closed-door meetings between pan-democrats and mainland officials would not be a bad thing but pan-democratic lawmakers must follow public opinion in deciding their voting preference.

His own reform proposal has been attacked by other pan-democrats for doing away with public nomination.

He suggests expanding the 1,200-strong election committee that voted in the chief executive in 2012 by including all popularly elected district councillors.

The Alliance for True Democracy will hold talks on Wednesday evening with pan-democratic groups, including the Democratic Party, Federation of Students and Occupy Central movement, to discuss ways to fight for genuine universal suffrage.