Political reform package is the best available option for Hong Kong

Patrick Ho says proponents must stop depicting it as less than ideal

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 May, 2015, 2:48pm
UPDATED : Monday, 18 May, 2015, 2:48pm

When certain officials suggested that Hong Kong's citizens should "pocket it first" when considering the government's political reform package, there was an immediate public uproar.

Those opposed to the proposal, including several Legislative Council members and politicians, leapt in to criticise the package as a "knock-off", "substandard", "less than satisfactory" and an "interim proposal".

They claimed that candidates who emerged as a result would be "rotten oranges", and told citizens not to "pocket it first" or they would be stuck with it forever.

At the same time, the supporting parties have trapped themselves in a position of trying to sell a package that even they themselves consider to be "not ideal". All who have stepped forward to defend it have been unable to plausibly explain this reform package to the public in a convincing manner and have been sheepish in their justification.

This lack of justification and confidence from the government makes it hard for the reform package to gain the trust and acceptance of the people, let alone that of the opposition. When the proponents themselves do not believe that this is a proposal for "true universal suffrage" that is in line with Hong Kong's actual circumstances, how can they expect it to be accepted by the public?

In fact, asking people to "pocket it first" is to buy into the opponents' erroneous assumption that it is possible to have an "ultimate proposal" that cannot be altered in future - this assumption runs counter to the reality of a changing world. Any proposal that is being offered can only be the best available.

The government's political reform package is one such proposal - the best adapted to Hong Kong's actual circumstances, and the best suited to the interests and welfare of the majority of Hongkongers as well as the rest of the country's nearly 1.4 billion people. It is the most ideal proposal for true universal suffrage.

All citizens of Hong Kong should unanimously support this long-awaited opportunity; lawmakers should not deprive the people of this unprecedented right to "one man, one vote".

That being said, a proposal that serves its purpose is one that may be amended according to future needs and continuously optimised in keeping with the times, so that it closely reflects the needs of social development.

Given this possibility, Article 7 of Annex I to the Basic Law clearly states that, "If there is a need to amend the method for selecting the chief executives for the terms subsequent to the year 2007, such amendments must be made with the endorsement of a two-thirds majority of all the members of the Legislative Council and the consent of the chief executive, and they shall be reported to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for approval."

In other words, the approach to true universal suffrage was never cast in stone. It must allow for the possibility of future change and adaptation based on the actual circumstances, whatever they may be.

This provision still exists and has not been removed, and, should the need arise in future, the door for further modification remains open.

I therefore implore our leaders and government officials to stop depicting this proposal for universal suffrage in terms of whether or not we should "pocket it first".

This is a proposal for true universal suffrage, one that is best suited to Hong Kong's current state of affairs, one that is in keeping with the times - realistic, pragmatic, and one that offers a vote to each and every one of Hong Kong's 5 million eligible voters.

Dr Patrick Ho Chi-ping is a former secretary for home affairs and director of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies