Universal suffrage in Hong Kong

CY Leung backtracks on claim over public nomination of election candidates

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 April, 2015, 12:02am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 April, 2015, 1:48pm

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Sunday backtracked from his claim that authors of the city's mini-constitution never contemplated letting the public put forward candidates for the top job, after he was accused of being "factually wrong".

Leung had been rebuked by veteran Democrat Martin Lee Chu-ming, who served on the committee that drafted the Basic Law, for claiming on Saturday that public nomination was never discussed. In fact, Lee said, the drafting body had considered, as one of five options, a model under which candidates would need 50 nominations from the public to enter an election decided by a 600-strong committee.

That would, however, deny the city of universal suffrage.

Leung initially stood by his words in a statement released in the afternoon and warned that advocating public nomination contravened the Basic Law.

Two hours later, Leung issued a further statement contradicting his earlier claim. He said only that two of the models allowed the city's leader to be elected on a one-person, one-vote basis - but without prior public nomination.

The issue is a hot topic amid debate over how the city elects its chief executive in 2017. Last year, Beijing set a framework under which only two or three candidates could seek votes from the public, provided they had earlier won majority support from a 1,200-strong committee. Pan-democrats say the rules will not allow voters real choice and want public nomination.

Lee welcomed Leung's clarification, but said the chief executive owed the public an explanation on why he deliberately "told lies" in Saturday's speech, which marked the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the Basic Law.

Leung had accurately described four of the models discussed, but not the one "that clearly suggested allowing the public to name chief executive hopefuls", Lee said.

"Leung particularly skirted the nominating method. … It is outrageous. How can he do so on such a solemn occasion?"

Meanwhile, Beijing-loyalist heavyweight Elsie Leung Oi-sie also backtracked yesterday as she made contradictory remarks on the same debate.

The former justice secretary, who serves as vice-chairwoman of the Basic Law Committee, initially supported Leung's claim that none of the five options included public nomination, but was less certain when challenged by reporters later.

"I do not have the five proposals on hand right now and do not remember whether one of them included public nomination," she said. "But I remember clearly that three … do not support universal suffrage while the [others] do not have public nomination."