The first lawmakers have had their say ahead of a crunch vote later this week in the Legislative Council on Hong Kong’s political reform and the model for the 2017 chief executive election. And both opponents and supporters of the reform plan stressed the historic nature of the discussion, which could lead to the city’s leader being elected by popular vote for the first time – albeit in a framework some condemn as highly restrictive. Dennis Kwok, Civic Party – one of the few to speak in English The nominating committee is an exact replica of the current election committee which doesn’t survive the need for a “broadly representative” committee under Article 45 of Basic Law and is obviously biased to small-circle elites. … The nominating committee [is] a screening mechanism to vet candidates deemed unacceptable to Beijing. It is a blatant attempt to retain the power of small-circle elites and allow them to have the ultimate say in the election. …By voting to reject the proposal, we send a strong signal to this administration, the central government, the world and to ourself as Hong Kong citizens that we must get back to the right track of “one country, two systems”. Albert Ho Chun-yan, Democratic Party By rolling out the August 31 decision, Beijing is in fact trying to retrieve the timetable for universal suffrage as promised, as they know clearly that Hongkongers would not accept such a sham election. The reform proposal is retrogressive. It forces Hongkongers to pick one among the vetted candidates and offers [the winner] fake legitimacy. A vote would be better than no vote, but is it still true if the ballot itself is meaningless? Sin Chung-kai, Democratic Party A democratic career is not just a generation’s career. The most pitiful thing about the past 30 years is that we couldn’t strive for real democracy. After political reform is voted down we need to learn a lesson from these three electoral reform experiences, and I hope the central and Hong Kong governments can listen to our voices. Changes to Hong Kong over last the few years have exceeded our level of tolerance. If we do not urgently tackle the internal struggle prompted by political reform, it will be unresolvable. Dr Joseph Lee Kok-long, independent pan-democrat The government’s reform proposal and the framework only fulfilled one person, one vote – you only have right to vote. But universal suffrage means every citizen has three rights – including also the right to be elected and to nominate. If any proposal does not address three rights but only one, how can we accept this proposal? My stance has never changed nor can I understand why the media, outsiders, and government officials have regarded me as someone who might perform a U-turn. Kenneth Leung, Professional Commons It’s also not true … to criticise pan-democrats for advocating only public nomination. During the first round of public consultation on reform last year, several scholars and groups floated different plans, of which 15 were approved by a group of legal scholars as being in line with the [principle of] “universal and equal suffrage” as stated in Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. But all these proposals were dismissed by the central government in one go without any discussion. Ng Leung-sing, pro-establishment independent Foreign powers have been trying to subvert the country through their spokesmen in Hong Kong. Only by ensuring the national security can we protect the implementation of “one country, two systems” and thus the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong. Pan-democrats have been demanding the reform plan comply with the international standards which advise no “unreasonable restrictions” should be imposed on the candidates. However, universal values have suggested national security should always come first. Claudia Mo Man-ching, Civic Party – the first lawmaker to speak in English This resolution is a fraud on the public, a contradiction of the very word “reform”. This bill … is a very bogus version of universal suffrage that has long been a ploy in communist and other authoritarian states. Let us not be taken in by a change, if anything, for the worse. Let us show the world we are not fools … Let us disabuse ourselves of any notion that if we surrender to Beijing’s constitutional dicta now, they might just be nicer to us in the future … If you want to curry favour with Beijing or the chief executive or just want a quiet life, go ahead and vote for this very shameful package. Chan Kam-lam, Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong All efforts in the past may be in vain today. Hongkongers will return to a wait with no end in sight. Pan-democrats are the worst example of democracy. I took a look at the Hansard for the 2004 and 2010 debates and at no time did pan-democrats suggest “public nomination”. We must be aware that the opposition camp uses the pursuit of democracy as an excuse for Hong Kong independence. Kwok Ka-ki, Civic Party The nominating committee fails to represent Hongkongers. Out of the1,200-strong election committee, 495 seats were uncontested in 2011 [and] the majority of them have nothing to do with the citizens. Many people said we would be very happy to vote down the proposal, but we are absolutely not. We have been fighting for universal suffrage since 1988, for almost 30 years, but our hopes are dashed again and again. Regina Ip, New People’s Party chairwoman I hope pan-democrats will change their mind to back the package as the central government is really sincere and determined in implementing universal suffrage in Hong Kong. If we can implement the plan, Hong Kong’s electoral system would be the most democratic in China, excluding Taiwan. The successful implementation might prompt local governments on the mainland to introduce universal suffrage and help modernise the country’s constitutional development. Blocking the proposal today would be a big loss not only to Hong Kong and China but also to the world. Leung Yiu-chung, Neighbourhood and Workers Service Centre It is the Hong Kong government that disrespects public opinion. It never launched a referendum to allow the public to formally express their opinion. If there was a referendum, I would have to have voted according to the result. The government, which claims it respects public opinion, is pretentious. What they say is different from what they do. Vincent Fang Kang, Liberal Party leader Hong Kong must be democratised, but it cannot take only one step towards the destination. At least the [current proposal is] better than what we have. How possible is it you can get a more democratic proposal than this? The Central People’s Government never promised it was to be a set of election proposal embodying self-determination and self-administration. Martin Liao Cheung-kong, pro-establishment independent There is screening in every electoral system and the question is whether it is reasonable. Insisting public voters have the right to name the chief executive would only bring Hong Kong to a deadlock … as we could not ensure the nominated person would be patriotic and respect the principle of “one country, two systems”. Universal suffrage in Hong Kong would affect the country’s national security as well. I hope all pan-democrats will have the courage to vote for the reform plan after considering the city’s long-term interests with their independent thinking. Ronny Tong Ka-wah, Civic Party The saddest thing is neither the government nor the pan-democrats have attempted to find a way out for Hongkongers after the [National People’s Congress Standing Committee] rolled out the framework on August 31. Instead, they have exhausted their efforts in fighting for public support, such as spending tonnes of money on opinion polls. But we do not need opinion polls to tell how severely divided society already is – and the polls would not solve the problem. Passing the reform package grudgingly would only have a catastrophic impact on society. I hope my colleagues who will still be in the chamber in future can resolve the discrepancies between the expectations of Hongkongers and Beijing on “one country, two systems”. I believe we can achieve universal suffrage by the time we figure out the answer to this question. Wong Kwok-hing, Federation of Trade Unions Pan-democrats keep citing British or American examples as democracy. They’ve forgotten how each and every governor was dispatched by Britain throughout the one and a half centuries of colonial rule. When they vote down the proposal, this is real screening. They are showing you what screening means. They are bloodless. They steal people’s votes. Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, Business and Professionals Alliance Pocket it for now. For what is left unfulfilled, continue to ask for it. The government has made it clear there will be no new reform. The society is torn apart. If a proposal is suddenly floated, society will be torn apart again. Which government will raise a proposal? This proposal may not be perfect. But all over the world, no election is ever perfect. Cyd Ho Sau-lan, Labour Party vice-chairwoman: Requiring aspirants to secure support from half of the nominating committee would deny Hongkongers a genuine choice of candidates. The election … would yield the same results as what we had in the past “small-circle” election by the 1,200-strong election committee, which is dominated by the tycoons and those in power. Citizens’ votes would merely be used as a mean to legitimise the results. I also reject the proposal to say no to the government’s lies and to avoid further tearing the city apart. Emily Lau Wai-hing, Democratic Party chairwoman: I … will vote down the government package – which is a sham universal suffrage – to defend Hongkongers’ basic rights and dignity. It is a very sad day. I have fought for democracy for decades. All Hongkongers should have applauded and cheered today to jointly support the proposal which could allow us to elect our government. We are not calling for independence but only to elect our own government under “one country, two systems” and the “high degree of autonomy”. … I’m saddened – and angry – to vote down the proposal, but I have no other choice. … Today will be the end of a tragedy, but Hongkongers should not be disappointed as there will be a new beginning. With so many young people and determined citizens, we will continue to fight for democracy. I’m saddened – and angry – to vote down the proposal, but I have no other choice. Starry Lee Wai-king, Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong chairwoman: “If we endorse this proposal we can together create history. This electoral arrangement is the most democratic method to select a chief executive. If we can successfully implement universal suffrage in Hong Kong, Hong Kong is the first city in the People’s Republic of China to implement one person, one vote. This has huge historical meaning. If the proposal is vetoed, the Occupy movement is the crux of the mistake.” Alan Leong Kah-kit, Civic Party leader: “To vote down a misleading and worse-than-none proposal is nothing pitiful. As the famous saying in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet goes: ‘To be or not to be’. The political reform this time is in the same position: To be or not to be. The August 31 framework set by Beijing is unshakeable, it is non-negotiable for Hong Kong people. Should we accept it in humiliation or vote it down? To be or not to be? My choice is clear and my way is not going to be swayed: I will vote it down. And I can be tested by history.” Each of the 70 lawmakers is being given 15 minutes to speak, after which a vote will take place. A two-thirds majority, 47 votes, is needed for the plan to succeed. All 27 pan-democrats and one pro-establishment lawmakers have so far vowed to vote no.