Occupy Central

Occupy students call for pan-democrats' resignation to trigger referendum

Several lawmakers, including 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung, have agreed to proposal, says Alex Chow

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 October, 2014, 11:52am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 October, 2014, 6:09pm

Pro-democracy student activists have proposed a way to trigger a referendum on political reform – by having pan-democrat lawmakers resign in order to prompt a by-election.

Alex Chow Yong-kang, secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, said on Saturday that the by-election could serve as a platform for people to express their views on the constitutional reform package to be unveiled by the government for the 2016 and 2017 elections.

“Some of us have come up with this idea that if [lawmakers] from each of the five [geographical] constituencies resign, or if the ‘super district councillors’ resign, then the government will have to hold a territory-wide by-election, which will serve as a de facto referendum,” Chow said.

“This will give citizens a chance to express their stance over the constitutional reform proposal they are facing, or the [National People’s Congress Standing Committee’s] decision on August 31, or whether functional constituencies should stay or go,” Chow said in an interview on the TVB current affairs programme On the Record.

“These issues can all be put into the vote for interpretation,” he said.

Chow said his group was discussing the idea with pan-democrats, and some legislators had agreed so far, including League of Social Democrats chairman Leung Kwok-hung.

The city will hold Legislative Council elections in 2016 and the chief executive election in 2017, with candidates selected by a nominating committee.

HKFS, one of the three leading groups of the Occupy Central civil disobedience movement for the past month, has demanded a public nomination of candidates in 2017 and the abolition of functional constituencies, which they see as having a narrow electorate and representing the interests of business elite.

READ MORE: Benny Tai says retreat not among options in Occupy protesters' vote

The nearly month-long Occupy protests prompted a crisis dialogue between HKFS and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam this week, but government officials stressed that scrapping Beijing’s August 31 decision and allowing a free choice of candidates in the upcoming elections would be impossible.

During the dialogue, Lam proposed setting up a platform to gauge views on long-term constitutional development beyond 2017 and to send a report to the central government on the issue – both of which failed to satisfy the protesters, who will be holding a democratic vote on a counter-proposal this Sunday at the barricaded protest camp in Admiralty.

Chow, of HKFS, said their proposal for a by-election would echo a de facto referendum in 2010 in which all citizens could participate.

That year, five legislators from the Civic Party and League of Social Democrats resigned from each of the city’s five geographical constituencies, prompting what they called a referendum on the political reform proposal that the government was then tabling for discussion.

If the legislators would be re-elected, they would see it as a signal of public support for "genuine" political reform. They were all voted back into office in May 2010 after the pro-Beijing camp boycotted the campaign and did not contest their seats.

The Democratic Party negotiated with the central government’s local liaison office and voted for an amended reform package, which was later passed.

With the pro-Beijing camp’s endorsement, the government later managed to change the electoral laws so that any legislator who resigned would be barred from running for re-election within six months.