Universal suffrage in Hong Kong

Half of Hongkongers say lawmakers should veto Beijing's electoral reform plan

Poll shows 48pc want legislators to vote down any blueprint for electing chief executive that adheres to strict restrictions imposed by Beijing

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 September, 2014, 6:29am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 September, 2014, 5:39pm

Some 48 per cent of Hongkongers say lawmakers should veto the reform proposal on the 2017 chief executive election if it follows the restrictive conditions laid down by Beijing, a poll commissioned by the South China Morning Post found.

This compared with 39 per cent who said the legislature should approve the reform plan, and 13 per cent who said they did not know or found it "hard to tell".

Eighty-six per cent believed the Occupy Central campaign to paralyse the city's business hub to press for more democracy had little or no chance of changing the central or local government's stance on reform. Just 5 per cent said Occupy was likely to force a change.

Occupy co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting said the results showed that a growing number of Hongkongers found an electoral model with political screening unacceptable.

The Occupy movement might not reverse the situation immediately, he said, but it was crucial as it would help nurture Hong Kong's civil society.

Another Occupy leader, Dr Chan Kin-man, urged the government to start the constitutional reform process again if the legislature voted down the one based on Beijing's guidelines.

The eight-day survey, carried out by the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme, started canvassing Hongkongers' views randomly by telephone on September 4 - four days after the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress unveiled the electoral blueprint.

It allows only two or three candidates to run for chief executive, and they will need majority backing from a 1,200-member nominating committee.

The government is expected to launch a second round of public consultation on reform next month, and the proposal is likely to be tabled to the Legislative Council for approval in the first quarter of next year.

To pass, it will need the support of two-thirds of lawmakers, which means the government will need the backing of at least five pan-democrats.

The findings in the Post's poll stood in contrast to a similar survey conducted by the HKU programme from September 1 to 6. In that survey, 52 per cent of respondents were in favour of accepting the principle of "one person, one vote" first, even if the reform plan screened pan-democrats out of the election process. Thirty-seven per cent said they would prefer to leave the reform process at a standstill.

Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, director of the programme, said the results showed that efforts to persuade Hongkongers to "pocket an imperfect reform plan" had failed, for now.

Forty-seven per cent of respondents would still vote for legislators who vetoed the government's reform plan in the next election, while 34 per cent would vote for someone else.

Almost 70 per cent of those who identified themselves as democracy supporters said they would still vote for pan-democratic lawmakers if they voted down the plan. All 27 pan-democrats have vowed to reject the proposal.

However, Chung said moderate voters - those who said they were neither pro-democracy nor Beijing-loyalist, and who comprised almost 60 per cent of the sample - might exert pressure on lawmakers "one way or another".

Thirty-six per cent of these respondents said they would still vote for favoured lawmakers who vetoed the reform proposal, while 40 per cent would not vote for them.

Hongkongers also tend to believe that the model for electing the chief executive is unlikely to change in future, regardless of whether the reform proposal is approved by lawmakers. About 55 per cent said there was little or no chance it could be changed.

Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan said pan-democrats were determined to veto any plan that did not guarantee voters a genuine choice "as a matter of principle".

"More or less votes in the next election will not alter our decision," he said. "Principles should come first for people who go into politics, and I believe Hongkongers will back us."

Beijing-loyalist Tam Yiu-chung said he would vote for the reform plan even in the face of more opposition. "We still have to move a step forward," said Tam, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.

The poll interviewed 1,008 Hongkongers and had a response rate of 64.3 per cent and a sampling error of 1.6 per cent.


Poll: young, better educated most pessimistic about Hong Kong's future

Younger people, the better educated and democrats are the most pessimistic about the city's political future, a survey commissioned by the Post shows.

They would prefer lawmakers to veto reform of the 2017 chief executive election if it must conform to Beijing's framework, and they tend to fear the electoral model will not be modified in future.

A total of 48 per cent said they wanted Legco to veto political reform if an open election was ruled out in 2017. But the figures varied according to age.

The survey showed 70 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 29 favoured the veto option, compared with 50 per cent of those aged 30 to 49, and 37 per cent for those 50 and above.

Some 65 per cent with tertiary education said the reform should be voted down, compared to 31 per cent for those with primary education or below.

Four out of five respondents who called themselves democrats opposed the reform. Only 14 per cent agreed that reform should go ahead under Beijing's framework.

Of the average 39 per cent backing reform, 80 per cent were "pro-China" and 48 per cent said they were moderates or neutrals.

Just over half of respondents felt more changes would be unlikely or impossible. Again, the younger generations and higher educated were more pessimistic.

If lawmakers voted "Yes" this time, 71 per cent of young people and two-thirds of those with higher education believed future amendments would be unlikely or impossible - compared with an overall figure of 54 per cent.

About 80 per cent of young people, the higher educated and democrats felt it was unlikely or impossible for Occupy Central to force Beijing to change its mind.

Student leader Lester Shum said it was normal for students to speak up as Beijing's tough guidelines had "ruined young people's future".

Occupy Central founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting said government propaganda on reform had failed to convince educated people.

Peter So and Jeffie Lam