Reform: a time for concessions

Eric Lam King-fai
Eric Lam King-fai |

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Abolition of functional constituencies is a necessary step on the road to suffrage

By Eric Lam King-fai, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

We have seen this week how the British parliamentary election and the presidential election of the Philippines are run. But we are not blessed with the opportunity to choose our leader and half of our legislators, at least for the majority of public. In light of this, the government has tabled a constitutional reform package to the Legislative Council (Legco) and it will be clear by summer whether it will be passed.

For this package to pass, it requires a two-third majority of Legco members in support of the proposal. What we require is at least some compromises between the establishment and pan-democrats. At this moment, it is unlikely that the motion will be passed, as it has a fundamental flaw for the pan-democrats to turn down the plan: it does not include the abolition of functional constituencies (FC).

For the chief executive (CE) election, the proposal advocates for the increase of the number of Election Committee (EC) seats from 800 to 1,200. For the Legco election, five seats will be allotted to both geographical constituencies (GC) and FC, in which seats from FC are all dedicated to the elected district councilors. But this is not a major step on the road map leading to universal suffrage, and the most of all, the abolition of FC.

Maria Tam Wai-chu, a pro-government aide, argues FC can also be universal and equal. But FC cannot be included in the future universal suffrage, as the nomination process would not be universal and equal even if the voting is open to all. With the inaction over expanding the base of voters in FC from corporate to individuals and the inclusion of only some of the elected district councilors to EC, there is simply no leeway for any pan-democrat to say 'Yes'.

Meanwhile, some pan-democrats have chosen to resign and ignited a so-called 'referendum', or 'by-election', in support of real universal suffrage and the abolition of FC in Legco, and the 'by-election' which will be held this Sunday.

Whether the turnout rate will be high enough to exert any political pressure is still unknown. But if the government insists on not offering any real compromises, citizens may choose to vote, or even march, to tell the government 'you are not with us!'

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