Universal suffrage

Senior Hong Kong officials should resign over Beijing’s reform decision: lawmaker

Civic Party leader Alan Leong says officials including Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor should examine their consciences and quit

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 September, 2014, 2:29pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 September, 2014, 5:52pm

Senior Hong Kong officials including Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor should examine their consciences and resign in a bid to make Beijing reconsider its tough restrictions on the vote for the city’s next leader, a pan-democrat lawmaker says.

Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit said the drastic move was needed to rescue Hong Kong’s chances for greater democracy needed to solve the city’s governance crisis.

“If they were unsuccessful in persuading [Beijing], one of the options available is to leave and show their disappointment,” Leong told RTHK.

On Sunday, Beijing announced that two to three candidates would be allowed to contest the chief executive election in 2017, and hopefuls would need approval from a simple majority of a 1,200-strong nominating committee to qualify for the election.

Candidates that Beijing does not want on the ballot paper would be screened out on national security grounds.

The decision sparked protests, with pro-democracy lawmakers vowing to block the government’s plan in the Legislative Council if it followed Beijing’s framework.

Activists announced that an “era of civil disobedience” had begun at a large rally on Sunday evening.

The city’s leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, insisted on Tuesday that the framework would allow for a significant improvement on the current system in which a 1,200-strong committee selects the chief executive.

Leung called for calm. “I understand that some people are not satisfied with the decision,” Leung said. “However, what should we do after the intense emotion? How should we deal with the relationship between Hong Kong and the central government?”

Eric Cheung Tat-ming, a law lecturer at the University of Hong Kong, raised the prospect of an alternative election in 2017 now that genuine universal suffrage had been ruled out.

“We don’t have to follow the rules set by Beijing to choose between a small-circle election or to pocket imperfect universal suffrage,” Cheung said. “Instead, we can organise a shadow vote or unofficial referendum in 2017 to tell Beijing what kind of leader we want.”

Pro-establishment lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun said the framework was more restrictive than she had expected. She said the central government might have been responding to the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement.

Occupy organised an unofficial referendum on political reform in June and plans to stage a mass sit-in on Central streets to demand a genuine choice of candidates in 2017.

Maria Tam Wai-chu, a local deputy to National People’s Congress, said Sunday’s decision would ensure no time was wasted on reform proposals that stood no chance of being approved by Beijing.

“Beijing has the constitutional authority to reject any reform proposal that departs from the Basic Law [Hong Kong’s mini-constitution]. So it is better for them to make the decision clear earlier,” Tam said.