• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 1:56pm
Occupy Central
NewsHong Kong

No 'international norms' for electoral system mentioned in Basic Law, says CY Leung

Chief executive dismisses talk of international standards for democracy in remarks some saw as part of coordinated attack on Occupy Central

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 August, 2014, 5:56am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 August, 2014, 9:32am

The Basic Law does not stipulate that the city's electoral system must meet international norms, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said yesterday, in remarks some scholars saw as a tactic to justify a possible crackdown on Occupy Central.

Speaking as the National People's Congress Standing Committee met in Beijing to discuss a framework for reform ahead of the city's first democratic chief executive election in 2017, Leung said: "The Basic Law simply does not state the term 'international standards'."

He made the remarks in reference to the demands of the Occupy movement, which has threatened to rally volunteers to block streets in the heart of the city if Beijing fails to allow a model for universal suffrage that conforms with accepted international standards.

Leung said Hong Kong was a unique society in many ways - including granting foreign permanent residents the right to vote.

"If the election in 2017 must fulfil international standards, should we deprive foreigners who are among the 5 million qualified voters … of the right to universal suffrage?" he asked.

The [CY] Leung I know cannot have such a poor understanding of our law
Benny Tai

In fact, the international situation varies: some countries, such as New Zealand, do allow non-citizens with permanent residency to vote.

Most countries, including the United States, strictly limit voting to citizens.

Other "unique" aspects of the Basic Law include the city's financial independence from Beijing and the fact it has its own currency, Leung added. He said Occupy would be "counterproductive" to the goal of achieving universal suffrage.

Political scientist Dixon Sing Ming said Leung's remarks were part of a co-ordinated action as Beijing-loyalist figures had expressed similar views in the past few days.

He said it was aimed at justifying a crackdown on Occupy.

Occupy founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting said there was no doubt that the contents of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a United Nations treaty signed by Britain, had been carried over by article 39 of the Basic Law.

"Local courts have cited the covenant in many cases when assessing whether our laws meet international norms," Tai, a law professor, said.

"The Leung I know cannot have such a poor understanding of our law. Otherwise he is deliberately distorting the concepts."

Since the handover in 1997, there has been a legal debate between Beijing and local liberal scholars on the issue.

Beijing acknowledged international standards existed but insisted that a reservation to the covenant regarding the right to vote, entered by Britain on Hong Kong's behalf before the handover, was still valid. The scholars stated the opposite.

Michael Davis, a law professor from the University of Hong Kong, said: "We should not lose sight that the most confrontational party here is a government that has made mincemeat out of its constitutional and international obligations under the Basic Law."

He lamented the "complete failure" of the government and some NPC deputies to explain Hong Kong's concerns to Beijing.

Peter Wong Man-kong, a local deputy to the NPC, said he did not see any problem with the current electoral system which "was fair but not equal", because those who committed themselves to politics "deserve to have more rights than others".


Related topics

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Regardless of international norms, Beijing's penchant for 'patriot pre-screening' is unconstitutional as Basic Law arts 25 and 26 provide that all Hongkongers are equal - not just Beijing-friendly ones- and enjoy equal political rights such as standing for election. That is what OCLP and the others should concentrate on - that Beijing's position contradicts its own-handcrafted law to prevent free and fair competition.
CY's remark that the Basic Law does not mention international norms is a remarkably stupid statement from a man who should know better.
Mr. CY Leung, you have not finished your sentence. "The Basic Law does not stipulate that the city's electoral system must meet international norms" needs to be amended to "And nowhere does the Basic Law stipulate you have to be a patriot" !
If foreigners to Hong Kong who are permanent residents are not allowed to vote, half of Legco and Exco is not allowed to vote as well as Rita Fan etc. because they were not born in HK and are therefore no citizens according to your very own definition Mr. Leung.
And even our first CE is also a foreigner according to CY Leung's definition.
Since the Basic Law relates to HK only and therefore the definition of citizenship under the Basic Law should relate only to HK citizenship and not to the PRC citizenship.
Anyone notice the shift in the line-to-take? Up till now, the line from Beijing has been to simply deny any international standards exist at all. Now, it seems, they do exist, it's just that Hong Kong is so unique they don't apply in our case. I wonder what the line will be next week?
By the way, despite what CY says, it's actually very common for non-citizen permanent residents to be able to vote and even stand for election in the West - at least outside the national level (ie regional, city or township, or European elections). Since Hong Kong is not an independent state, this would be the proper comparison to make in our case. Reporters shouldn't let CY get away so easily with such factual flaws in his desperate attempts to justify why HKers aren't entitled to real democracy.
I wonder if there are international standards for arrogance, ignorance, silliness, stupidity?
Seems the debate about electoral reform in Hong Kong has really taken on an air of unreality. This is Alice in Wonderland stuff. Just when you think CY Leung had no more integrity to lose, he goes and proves you wrong. "Chief Executive" in name only, that much is now clear.
Dai Muff
Mr Leung should pay attention to both Article 26 and Article 39 of the Basic Law.
Article 39
The provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and international labour conventions as applied to Hong Kong shall remain in force and shall be implemented through the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
He wishes to place us in the "Alice in Wonderland" world of Communist definition:
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - - that's all."
I agree that the BL does not stipulate that electoral reforms must conform to international norms. However, by the same token, the BL doesnt mention a 50% threshold for the nominating committe in putting forward a candidate nor impose a cap on the number of candidates vying for the CE post. CY, you cant just mention the BL when it suits you and be silent when it does not. Your credibility had slowly risen due to your involvement in livelihood issues but I am sorry to say it will nosedive again.
It become now more clear, the biggest opposition to the universal suffrage not comes from Beijing but from our own gang of big cat Civil Service workers of the Central Government Complex. For what they are afraid ? There golden rice bowl ?
Ant Lee
Basic Law does not say Hong Kong people cannot kick CY Leung in the face.



SCMP.com Account