'Referendum' push has failed, top adviser says

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 April, 2010, 12:00am

The campaign to make next month's Legco by-elections a 'de facto referendum' on democratisation is a failure, the government's chief adviser declared yesterday.

Professor Lau Siu-kai, the head of the Central Policy Unit, said its surveys had consistently shown that more than half the people opposed the campaign.

Five lawmakers from the League of Social Democrats and the Civic Party resigned from their seats to trigger the polls, hoping to offer voters the chance to show they wanted 'genuine' democracy. Campaign organisers rejected Lau's claim.

Lau said the unit had conducted more than three public opinion polls in recent months - he could not recall how many exactly, nor over what time period they had been done. Each had a sample size of about 1,000.

In each survey, more than half the respondents said they opposed the movement for a 'de facto referendum' and thought it had failed.

Citing the findings and those of others, Lau said people did not think the campaign would put pressure on Beijing to compromise on electoral reform, and felt it lacked large-scale support.

League chairman Andrew To Kwan-hang dismissed Lau's conclusion. 'Uncle Kai already maxed out his credit limit when he wrongly predicted the turnout of the march on July 1, 2003.' Lau reportedly predicted only about 30,000 would join the protest, which saw an estimated 500,000 people take to the streets.

Meanwhile, a minister had a message for pan-democrats unhappy with the government's proposal for electoral reform in 2012: take it or leave it, and don't expect any second helpings.

Since the government had already 'racked its brains' in preparing the proposal - which pan-democrats look likely to veto - there would be no room to come up with one more democratic, constitutional affairs chief Stephen Lam Sui-lung said.

Under questioning from Democrat Cheung Man-kwong, Lam said if Legco voted down the proposals there would not be enough time before 2012 to restart the five-step process Beijing has set down for drawing up electoral reforms. But Cheung said after the meeting that the government would have no option but to come up with a new proposal if its refusal to make concessions meant the current one was vetoed.

The government is proposing to create 10 new Legco seats. But five of them would be functional constituency seats voted on by 405 district councillors. The membership of the Election Committee that picks the chief executive would rise by half, to 1,200. Pan-democrats have rejected these proposals on the grounds they are too conservative and lack a road map to universal suffrage.

Three alliances for constitutional reform, representing the pan-democratic and pro-government camps, and businessmen and professionals, will meet next week. Lawmaker Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, organiser of Constitutional Reform Synergy, formed by businessmen and professionals, hopes the groups will find agreement.