Universal suffrage in Hong Kong

Hong Kong's political reform package will be unveiled next month, says Carrie Lam

As student leader seeks judicial review, chief secretary insists restarting process is 'unrealistic'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 March, 2015, 12:45pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 March, 2015, 9:00am

A concrete political reform package will be unveiled next month, the city's No 2 official said yesterday, in the face of a fresh judicial review asking the High Court to order that the government restart the latest consultation.

Expressing concern over potential delays, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor reiterated that it was "unrealistic" to believe the reform process could be immediately started afresh if lawmakers were to veto the proposal.

"We hope to announce the results collected from the second round of consultation in April and at the same time may roll out … the reform proposal, which would then be tabled to the legislature," Lam said at a meeting with Sai Kung District Council.

"The package must be voted on before the Legislative Council's summer recess, no matter what."

Her remarks came ahead of the end of the second round of consultation on Saturday.

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, attending another district council meeting in Tuen Mun, said the government would look at how to strengthen the public's faith that the 2017 election "won't be the endpoint" and further amendments to the election could be introduced thereafter.

But Rao Geping, a member of the Basic Law Committee under the National People's Congress Standing Committee, said it was like "a condition for exchange" for some to ask for the Hong Kong government to expressly state that future changes to the electoral methods were possible.

The central government, he said, would not be bound by such statements when considering whether to restart reforms in the future.

Lam stressed that the reform must be discussed within the framework laid out last year by the NPCSC, which has ruled that only two or three candidates with the support of at least half of the nominating committee could run for the top job.

In a judicial review application filed yesterday, student leader Yvonne Leung Lai-kwok - one of the core organisers of Occupy Central - argued the local government had "misdirected" by relying heavily on the NPCSC decision.

"Such matters [in the NPCSC decision] have no legal effect and are not legally binding to the institutions of HKSAR," she said in the writ.

"This is because these matters fall outside the scope of the provisions of the Basic Law and the 2004 NPCSC Interpretation."

She said that under the interpretation all the NPCSC could do at this stage was to say if there was a need to amend the electoral method, and no more. The High Court should therefore quash the second round of public consultation and order the government to restart it, she said.

A hearing date was not fixed, but Civic Party leader and lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit said the case was arguable as the 2004 interpretation is part of Hong Kong laws, in light of an earlier judgment of the Court of Final Appeal.

"It is up to the executive whether to risk having a judgment in a few months' time that may be in Yvonne Leung's favour," said Leong.

The lawmaker added: "This is a political question more than a legal question."

Meanwhile, radical group People Power warned pan-democrats yesterday that they would put up candidates in November's district council elections against those parties making a U-turn in support of the political reform.

In 2011, the group had launched a similar campaign in the district council elections to target 45 moderate democrats whose parties had voted for the 2012 chief executive election reform.