Universal suffrage in Hong Kong

Full text of former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa’s speech on Hong Kong’s political reform

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 September, 2014, 9:22pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 September, 2014, 9:22pm

The decision by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee a few days ago on the framework for the election of the chief executive has confirmed that from 2017 onward the people of Hong Kong will elect our chief executive by universal suffrage, fulfilling the collective aspiration of the people of Hong Kong. I fully support this decision, just as large numbers of Hong Kong people do.

At the same time, I observed many friends in the pan-democratic camp have reacted with anger and disappointment to the NPC decision. I understand how they feel. I understand how deeply and strongly felt those emotions are. This is why what I am going to say now also comes from deep within me.

In 1997, I was chosen chief executive by a selection committee composed of only 400 people. Subsequently, the committee was expanded from 400 to 800, and later from 800 to 1200. Each time, we took a significant step towards democracy.

By 2017, we will no longer be taking just another incremental step; we will be ushering Hong Kong into a new chapter in history, a grand chapter to be written collectively by the people of Hong Kong. This is because by then, some five million voters in Hong Kong will have a chance to cast their ballots. Come to think of it: of the 2.4 million families in Hong Kong, each will have at least one member eligible to vote.

Between 1997 and 2017, a short span of just 20 years, we have moved from having Britain parachute a governor into Hong Kong to having five million voters choosing their own leader. In the grand sweep of history, this is a glittering achievement. It represents the well-deserved fruits of our desire for democracy. It is also concrete proof of our nation’s positive response to our aspiration.

Today, on the eve of Hong Kong’s crucial development in our long history, on the verge of our going for the biggest political leap, how can we possibly choose to stand still? How can we let our march towards democracy stop and stall?

Five million voters personally picking their leader is not airy-fairy democracy. It is democracy real and substantial. What’s more, this is by no means democracy in its final form. If, after 2017, we desire to further improve our democratic system, there is clear mechanism within the Basic Law for us to do so.

Regardless of their political stance, Hong Kong people have demonstrated their political sensibility and maturity. Most are moderate and rational. There are outstanding talents on both sides of the political divide, and many of them are patriots with an abiding love for our city. In essence, anyone who are patriotic and love Hong Kong are free to win over the support of the 1,200 Nomination Committee members with their vision, political ideals, and proven record of service to our community, and seek nomination as a candidate in the 2017 CE election. The final choice of our leader rests with the five million voters.

Democracy doesn’t have a final destination, and to fight for democracy is far from being the whole story in improving people’s livelihood – which after all is the ultimate test of good governance. I appeal to people of all political stripes to come together, and turn negative sentiments into positive energy. Hand in hand, we will build a sound electoral arrangement on the basis of the foundation laid down by NPC.

I am resolutely opposed to Occupy Central because it is against the law. I have no doubt that many of those who are sympathetic towards Occupy Central are patriots and true-blue Hongkongers at heart. We may have our differences of views, but we are united by our desire to see our city succeed and prosper.

I do not approve to the call for students to boycott classes. But I believe the students are motivated to do so by their love of Hong Kong. They are idealistic and filled with passion. Many of us are parents. Our children deserve our understanding, care, and protection.

I therefore appeal to all teachers and parents to join together in protecting our young and their core values and to make sure that their studies are not disrupted. After all, they are the future of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is our home. We have to work together. The only way out and the only way forward is through working together hand-in-hand, or otherwise, there will be no end to the bitter squabbles and paralysis.

For the sake of our next generation, let us turn our energy and creativity towards improvements for our electoral system. In two-and-a-half years’ time, five million Hong Kong citizens and all of our 2.4 million families will all have the final say on the choice of our leader. Let us make Hong Kong again our collective pride.