Hong Kong sending unprecedented 12 deputies to NPC committee meeting
Unprecedented representation at meeting to set 2017 election rules seen as Beijing's commitment to reform, but only one city deputy gets a vote
Tony Cheung, Gary Cheung and Peter So
An unprecedented number of Hong Kong deputies to the National People's Congress have been invited to sit in on next week's talks to set the framework for the city's political reform.
Twelve Hong Kong representatives are expected to attend the NPC's Standing Committee meeting, which starts on Monday, compared with just two or three who have attended past sessions in which Hong Kong affairs have been discussed.
The invited deputies include Basic Law Committee member Maria Tam Wai-chu; legislators Ma Fung-kwok, Martin Liao Cheung-kong and Ip Kwok-him; Federation of Trade Unions chairman Stanley Ng Chau-pei; and Executive Council members Cheng Yiu-tong and Laura Cha Shih May-lung.
Also invited is economist Dr David Wong Yau-kar, who said he would reflect the views of the Democratic Party after meeting its leaders.
The only Hongkonger allowed to vote at the meeting - which will set Beijing's standards for universal suffrage in the 2017 chief executive election - will be deputy Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai.
Veteran China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said the invitation from the nation's top legislative body showed Beijing's commitment to reform.
"It wants to show the country that Hong Kong's political reform is important, Beijing values it … and is sincere about it," Lau said. "It also wants mainland people to support its policy on Hong Kong's political development."
Just two Hong Kong deputies sat in on the standing committee meeting on reform in April 2004. Three attended the December 2007 meeting where it was agreed that the chief executive could be elected democratically in 2017.
Ma yesterday said he would put across the views of Hongkongers. He was speaking after meeting Yin Xiaojing, deputy director of Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong, and said Yin urged NPC deputies at today's meeting between Legislative Council members and central government officials to speak up.
"It will be a last chance for the central government and the national legislature's office to listen to opinion before the standing committee meeting. Officials could also reiterate Beijing's views," Ma said.
Meanwhile, three pan-democrat lawmakers usually denied permission to visit the mainland - "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung, Albert Ho Chun-yan and Cyd Ho Sau-lan - yesterday applied for one-off home-return permits to attend today's Shenzhen talks.
Leung said he might wear a T-shirt supporting the vindication of the 1989 democracy movement and present books on universal suffrage to officials.
In April, Leung was forced to abandon a visit to Shanghai for talks with mainland officials after he refused to surrender leaflets and books relating to the June 4 crackdown. Several pan-democrats pulled out of the Shanghai talks after Leung, chairman of the League of Social Democrats, was barred.
Business leaders warn of investment fallout over electoral reform standards
Overseas investment could be discouraged if the electoral reforms do not live up to international standards, a world business organisation warns.
The Hong Kong chapter of the International Chamber of Commerce, known for its liberal stance, also expressed disappointment yesterday with the slow pace of democratisation in Hong Kong.
Its warning came as the National People's Congress Standing Committee members prepared to meet in Beijing next week to discuss the reforms. The chamber stopped short of giving clear backing to the Occupy Central protests, planned by democracy campaigners to pressure Beijing into giving Hong Kong what they deem "genuine" universal suffrage that is up to "international standards".
"Hong Kong is ready to adopt universal suffrage in public elections, given its mature economy and residents' high education level," chamber chairman Lee Jark-pui said.
But the lingering row over the reforms could affect how overseas businesses saw Hong Kong and thus their investment plans, he said.
"Political stability is required for doing business. But stability alone is not enough. We also need a free society and a free government and rule of law."
The chamber suggests that anyone should be able to stand as a candidate for the 2017 chief executive poll, provided that he or she has obtained 35,000 voters as subscribers or secured the support of 10 per cent of the members of a 1,200-strong nominating committee. It also proposes scrapping the functional constituency system no later than 2020.
The chamber was inaugurated in 1998. Its chairman, Lee, is an executive director of Lippo Limited. The vice-chairman, Dr George Cautherley of Health Care Pharma, is also a vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Democratic Foundation and a member of Hong Kong 2020, headed by former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang.