POLITICS
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Universal suffrage in Hong Kong

HKU pollster calls for reform proposals to be put to a public vote

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 March, 2015, 12:20am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 March, 2015, 5:11am

The University of Hong Kong's chief pollster has suggested the government hold a vote to gauge public views after it releases its reform proposal next month.

If a two-thirds majority vote in favour of the proposal for the 2017 chief executive election, the pan-democrats should no longer insist on voting down the package, the pollster said.

Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, director of HKU's Public Opinion Programme, told the media yesterday he would submit his view to the government before the consultation on reform closes this Saturday.

"The two-thirds majority - not a lower threshold - is important because this is the requirement laid down in the Basic Law for the legislature to pass any political reform," Chung said.

"If two-thirds of the voters say they want to pass the package, the pan-democrats should respect the results and not insist on a veto," he added.

Chung's comments came after Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, said last month the government "would not rule out" commissioning a large-scale survey after its proposal was out.

The results would serve as a reference for lawmakers before they vote, Tam added.

But Chung said that instead of a survey, a vote would be a better option because it would draw more people. "I understand that Beijing will not like the idea of a 'referendum', but it's up to you how to name the vote."

Albert Chen Hung-yee, a HKU law professor, said the survey should be steered by independents, such as retired judges.

Meanwhile, at the university's media reception yesterday which both Chung and Chen attended, HKU vice chancellor Peter Mathieson was asked about the recent suggestions of government interference into the institution's affairs, including an alleged attempt to block the appointment of former law dean and pro-democracy scholar Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun as pro-vice chancellor.

"I will never have enough political intelligence but I have a lot more than I had a year ago," Mathieson said. "It's been an advantage to me in the last few months to be an outsider. Because I come with a clean view, no preconceived ideas, no baggage, no political affiliation. I can come here and just work in the best interest of the university."

Mathieson said the search committee for the pro-vice chancellor post had not yet made a recommendation.

Separately, 172 people, including scholars and politicians considered as moderates such as former Democrat Lau Chin-shek and HKU economist Professor Richard Wong Yu-chim, issued a joint statement calling on all political parties and the government to work out a reform proposal acceptable to all.