Saturday, 2 May 2015

Proposal veto a backward step

Chief Executive CY Leung

It is almost two weeks since we released the details of the constitutional development proposal. In about two months - before the summer recess - LegCo members will be asked to vote on it. The result will decide whether the 5 million eligible Hong Kong people will be given the right to vote for the Chief Executive in 2017.

 

We need more than a simple majority in LegCo to make it happen. To change the election method, the Basic Law requires a two-thirds majority of all LegCo members, or 47 votes. As things now stand, we are short of a few votes.

 

Over the next few weeks, all members of my political team will be meeting with a wide cross-section of the community to explain the proposal and seek their support. We believe - and the polls tell us - that the majority of the people want to exercise their right under the Basic Law to vote for the Chief Executive in 2017. All eyes are now on LegCo.

 

If we take this opportunity - that is if we can win over a few more LegCo members - then we can start a new chapter in the constitutional development of Hong Kong.  For the first time, we will be able to elect the Chief Executive by one-person, one-vote. This is the historic outcome that I want to see and which I and all my political team will be fighting for.

 

If the proposal is voted down, at the next Chief Executive election, we would see a repeat of the past election - and that is – 1,200 members of the Election Committee going to the polls, and the rest of Hong Kong watching, on television. 

 

Back to square one

 

If the proposal is voted down, to re-start the process, everything and everyone will be back to square one. The next Chief Executive, if he agrees, will have to trigger the five-step process again. He would have to secure the approval of the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC), again. And lobby LegCo members, again. Are we sure that the next Chief Executive will agree? Are we sure that the then NPCSC will approve? Furthermore, who can say when the next opportunity to start this process will be?

 

Those who are opposed to the proposals for universal suffrage in 2017 should also remember that it is not just the Chief Executive election that is at stake. We are also talking about the universal suffrage for all LegCo members, since NPCSC has stated that LegCo may be returned by universal suffrage only after implementing universal suffrage for the Chief Executive. If the proposal is rejected, then the earliest time to have universal suffrage for LegCo will be 2024, nine years from now.

 

Pushing back

 

It is puzzling why the pan-democrats are pushing back. It is more puzzling why they have not offered any alternative that complies with the Basic Law. They seem to have abandoned civic nomination, which they insisted on having, during the Occupy Central movement. So what are our differences?

 

Politics is the art of the possible. The NPCSC has the constitutional power under the Basic Law of approving or not approving the change. And no one has seriously suggested that the NPCSC will retract or change their August 31st decision. The deal is now on the table. If the pan-democrats walk away, will they have something better for the Hong Kong people? Do they seriously think that their proposal will have the support of two-thirds of LegCo members?

 

Changing election methods is always controversial. The method of electing the Chief Executive was one of the most controversial subjects when the Basic Law was being drafted more than 25 years ago. Many opposed universal suffrage outright. The Basic Law has struck a balance by requiring nomination by a nominating committee before universal suffrage election. The pan-democrats may well think that the NPCSC Decision was too conservative or restrictive. They may want to vote down the proposal. But who is to say that those who had opposed any form of universal suffrage in the first place would not slip back to their original position?

 

Facing people

 

The proposal gives an open nomination system. Anyone who is supported by 120 members of the 1,200 strong Nominating Committee will have the opportunity to face the committee as a whole for nomination. Anyone nominated will have to face the 5 million eligible voters of Hong Kong. Here I have some experience to share. I took my election to the streets and to the town halls, although my voters were the 1,200 Election Committee members. And the experience is this - once you have to face the people, you cannot ignore their wishes. And that, is democracy.

 

The proposed change is also not the end-game. The Basic Law doesn't say that this proposed change, or any other after this, is a one-off.

 

The choice is simple - support a system that allows five million people to vote, or stay with the status quo where only 1,200 people have that right.

 

I urge everyone in Hong Kong who wants to vote in the next Chief Executive election, to speak up in support of the proposal and make it happen. I also urge the pan-democrats to let it happen.

 

(This is Chief Executive CY Leung's Letter to Hong Kong broadcast on Radio Television Hong Kong on May 3.)


Regards,
Otmane El Rhazi
Department of Commerce
Economic Development
Text/Mobile, +44 7414 782 320

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