Universal suffrage in Hong Kong

Pan-democrats' reform demands may have pushed Beijing into taking tougher stance

Pan-democrats' demands may have forced central government into adopting an uncompromising position, lawmaker says

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 January, 2014, 4:30am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 January, 2014, 7:17am

The pan-democratic camp's demands have provoked Beijing into taking a stubborn stance on political reform, a Civic Party lawmaker says.

Ronny Tong Ka-wah now fears Beijing's hardened approach may mean no consensus will be reached on how to implement universal suffrage for the 2017 chief executive election.

Any reform proposal will have to win the approval of at least some pan-democratic lawmakers, as well as Beijing.

Tong said his own roadmap for the election - which offered concessions to both pan-democrats and Beijing - received a lukewarm response from the central government despite its positive reception from Beijing loyalists in the city.

"I have heard nothing from [the Beijing officials] on the proposal … They appeared more positive towards it at the beginning," he said.

The barrister and lawmaker's plan, put forth in October, focused on making the nominating committee that will select candidates for chief executive more representative and ignored calls to allow all voters to nominate candidates - an idea Beijing says is against the Basic Law.

Tong said he feared pan-democrats and the central government would never find consensus as Beijing had adopted a sterner stance in recent months. "From the remarks made by Beijing loyalists of late, you can feel that the central government has taken a harder stance," he said.

On a recent visit to Hong Kong, Tsinghua University law dean Professor Wang Zhenmin said the business community should continue to have a say in the nominating committee. Basic Law Committee vice-chairwoman Elsie Leung Oi-sie also recently proposed using block voting to nominate candidates, which would hit the hopes of pan-democrats given the likely Beijing-loyalist majority on the committee.

Both remarks were viewed as hints at a hardening of Beijing's tone, which Tong said was related to the city's pan-democrats' equally uncompromising stance.

"Pan-democrats still have no intention … to negotiate with Beijing or forge consensus with the pro-establishment camp here," Tong said. "If they are bidding higher and higher [on reform], of course Beijing would take a sterner stance."

Tong was referring to pan-democrats who insist public nomination must be included in any reform package.

Beijing-loyalist lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin, of the Federation of Trade Unions, also called on pan-democrats to scale back their ambitions.

"They should get rid of the ideas not [in accordance with] the Basic Law - like public nomination - and focus on studying how to increase the franchise of the nominating committee," he said. "If they insist on going on a different way … the biggest loser would be all Hongkongers."