ELECTORAL REFORM
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Universal suffrage

Is the US election system totally fair? Hong Kong lawmaker asks

Leader of city’s largest pro-Beijing party raises question as stalemate over local political reform continues

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 January, 2017, 11:40am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 January, 2017, 12:51pm

The leader of Hong Kong’s largest pro-Beijing party has cited Donald Trump’s election victory in questioning whether the United States’ democratic system is “completely fair”.

Lawmaker Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, also said the city’s electoral system would not be “completely fair” under Beijing’s framework laid down in 2014, but she believed it was more important to adopt universal suffrage under the central government’s “one country, two systems” principle.

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Lee added that Hong Kong’s chief executive must be someone Beijing could trust because it would be difficult for the city to flourish otherwise.

She was speaking days after Wang Guangya, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, added a fourth criterion on Beijing’s list of qualities for Hong Kong’s next leader: someone the central government can trust. Four years ago, he suggested the chief executive should possess three qualities: love of country, an ability to win Hongkongers’ support, and capability.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced last month he would not seek a second term. A committee of 1,194 members is to elect his successor on March 26.

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In 2014, Beijing ruled that when Hong Kong elected its leader by popular ballot in 2017 a 1,200-strong committee must only put forward two to three candidates endorsed by half its members.

The Hong Kong government’s reform package strictly followed that ruling, and was voted down by the pan-democrats in the Legislative Council, who rejected the package as disingenuous.

Speaking on a radio programme on Monday, Lee said implementing a “virtuous democracy” would be a key goal for her party.

Was the US president elected by ‘genuine universal suffrage’?
Starry Lee Wai-king, lawmaker

Asked if such a democracy or “genuine universal suffrage” could be achieved under the 2014 ruling, Lee said: “Hong Kong needs to adopt universal suffrage under ‘one country, two systems’. Was the US president elected by ‘genuine universal suffrage’? … Many Americans would agree they don’t like [Donald] Trump or Hillary [Clinton], but after so many years of democratic development, they still find the presidential nomination dominated or monopolised by two parties.”

She claimed it would be difficult to explain how the US system was “completely fair”.

Beijing’s ruling in 2014 meant the nominating committee would not be elected by popular ballot, she added. But “it needs to ensure balanced participation” of dozens of sectors in society as focusing solely on fairness would get the city nowhere.

“There is no complete fairness in the design, I would not deny that,” she said. “But we cannot just talk about one point. We should consider if there is nothing good about having balanced participation.”