Con­sul­ta­tion kicks off on po­lit­i­cal re­form

Car­rie Lam: ‘Self-ev­i­dent’ that CE can­di­dates must love coun­try and HK

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By KAHON CHAN in Hong Kong kahon@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

The idea that can­di­dates in fu­ture Chief Ex­ec­u­tive elec­tions — to be con­ducted un­der uni­ver­sal suff rage — must “love the coun­try and Hong Kong” was self-ev­i­dent, Chief Sec­re­tary Car­rie Lam Cheng Yuet- ngor said on Wed­nes­day while launch­ing a five-month pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion on elec­toral re­form.

The HKSAR was ready for uni­ver­sal suf­frage in the 2017 Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Elec­tion, Lam said as she pre­sented the con­sul­ta­tion pa­per on the long-awaited process to the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil.

The stip­u­la­tion that a Chief Ex­ec­u­tive can­di­date must love the coun­try and Hong Kong was not in the 57-page con­sul­ta­tion doc­u­ment was be­cause it was self- ev­i­dent un­der the Ba­sic Law, she said.

From the very first ar­ti­cle of the Ba­sic Law, stat­ing that Hong Kong was an in­alien­able part of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China, to Ar­ti­cle 43, which pro­vides that the city’s chief be ac­count­able to the cen­tral gov­ern­ment, Lam said there were al­ready plenty of ref­er­ences to such a re­quire­ment.

“It is ob­vi­ous that the CE has to be a per­son who loves the coun­try, loves Hong Kong and does not op­pose the cen­tral gov­ern­ment. So, we think the de­bate on ‘love the coun­try, love Hong Kong’ is un­nec­es­sary be­cause it is thor­oughly re­flected in the spirit of the Ba­sic Law,” she said.

How­ever, Lam said dif­fer­ent views would still be wel­come. She added that there was no ques­tion of screen­ing pa­tri­otic con­tenders through le­gal pro­vi­sions or pro­ce­dures. The gov­ern­ment is con­fi­dent that the elec­torate, in­clud­ing mem­bers of the nom­i­nat­ing com­mit­tee, can choose the right leader.

Fol­low­ing a de­ci­sion made by the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress Stand­ing Com­mit­tee ( NPCSC) in 2007, the 2017 elec­tion will be the first in Hong Kong’s his­tory to choose its leader through uni­ver­sal suff rage. This is the ul­ti­mate goal stated in Ar­ti­cle 45 of the Ba­sic Law.

The ar­ti­cle also pro­vides that nom­i­nees in the elec­tion be cho­sen by “a broadly rep­re­sen­ta­tive nom­i­nat­ing com­mit­tee in ac­cor­dance with demo­cratic pro­ce­dures”. The NPCSC de­cided that it should be formed “with ref­er­ence to” that of the elec­toral com­mit­tee.

Lam, quot­ing NPCSC Deputy Sec­re­tary- Gen­eral Li Fei, said for­ma­tion of the two com­mit­tees would share a high de­gree of sim­i­lar­ity. The con­sul­ta­tion pa­per states, how­ever, that there will be “ap­pro­pri­ate room for ad­just­ment”.

Wide- rang­ing op­tions are also of­fered on ex­pand­ing the voter base and “demo­cratic pro­ce­dures” for the nom­i­nat­ing com­mit­tee, as well as vot­ing ar­range­ments to elect the CE. The con­sul­ta­tion pa­per also looks for so­lu­tions in the un­likely event the elected leader fails to se­cure ap­point­ment by Bei­jing.

Lo­cal leg­is­la­tion re­quires the SAR’s chief to give up any po­lit­i­cal party mem­ber­ship be­fore tak­ing of­fice. This par­tic­u­lar ques­tion, though ad­dressed in the pa­per, will only be dealt with later. This is be­cause it does not in­volve con­sti­tu­tional re­quire­ments.

The con­sul­ta­tion pa­per pro­vides no sin­gle an­swer to any ques­tion. Lam ex­plained that the gov­ern­ment is re­luc­tant to re­ject any ideas at present. When ap­pro­pri­ate, how­ever, the gov­ern­ment will iden­tify what pro­pos­als are con­sid­ered to have de­fied le­gal premises.

Asked whether can­di­dates could en­ter the race by pe­ti­tion of a cer­tain por­tion of the elec­torate — a pro­posal ad­vo­cated by the op­po­si­tion — Lam said the nom­i­nat­ing com­mit­tee is the only in­sti­tu­tion em­pow­ered to se­lect can­di­dates.

She said pro­pos­als not only must be prac­ti­cal and con­form to le­gal re­quire­ments of the Ba­sic Law and NPCSC de­ci­sions, but need to have a rea­son­able chance of win­ning the ap­proval of two-thirds of the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil ( LegCo) mem­bers, the ma­jor­ity of the pub­lic, as well as the NPCSC.

The re­form pack­age will re­quire the back­ing of at least five op­po­si­tion leg­is­la­tors. Lam warned that if an im­passe re­sulted, the so­ci­ety could face po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic in­sta­bil­ity. If this hap­pened no one would be win­ner, she stressed.

In spite of tough chal­lenges ahead, the chief sec­re­tary was con­fi­dent the com­mu­nity, which val­ued the rule of law, would over­come its dif­fer­ences.

Sec­re­tary for Con­sti­tu­tional and Main­land Af­fairs Ray­mond Tam Chi-yuen said that while the 2017 elec­tion would be the first to im­ple­ment the “ul­ti­mate goal” of uni­ver­sal suf­frage, the elec­toral setup it­self would not be fi nal. He said it would change with the times when nec­es­sary.

The con­sul­ta­tion, due to end on May 4, 2014, is the first of five steps to over­haul the city’s elec­toral sys­tem. All views col­lected in the con­sul­ta­tion will be com­piled into a re­port. This will then be sub­mit­ted to the NPCSC by the cur­rent CE.

If the NPCSC agrees to re­vise the elec­tion meth­ods, the SAR gov­ern­ment will ta­ble a con­crete re­form pack­age to the LegCo. It re­quires the sup­port of two- thirds of all law­mak­ers and the CE be­fore the pack­age is sub­mit­ted to the NPCSC for fi­nal ap­proval.

The lo­cal leg­is­la­ture will still have to amend laws in ac­cor­dance to the plan ap­proved by the NPCSC.

Tam said the pub­lic opin­ion re­port was ex­pected to reach the NPCSC by July next year. A fi­nal pro­posal would again in­vite pub­lic views in the sec­ond half of next year. While it was too early to tell how long the sec­ond con­sul­ta­tion would take, he hoped to fin­ish it be­fore the end of 2014.

At LegCo, po­lit­i­cal par­ties have made plans to en­gage in the land­mark con­sul­ta­tion. The Demo­cratic Al­liance for the Bet­ter­ment and Progress for Hong Kong and New Peo­ple Party will seek pub­lic views and de­velop their own pro­pos­als.

A panel at LegCo will host pub­lic hear­ings in Jan­uary for the con­sul­ta­tion, while mem­bers of the LegCo were also in­vited to din­ners hosted by the chief sec­re­tary. Four dates in Jan­uary are open for law­mak­ers to sign up.

ED­MOND TANG / CHINA DAILY

Chief Sec­re­tary for Ad­min­is­tra­tion Car­rie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor speaks as Sec­re­tary for Con­sti­tu­tional and Main­land Af­fairs Ray­mond Tam Chi-yuen looks on at a press con­fer­ence on the “Con­sul­ta­tion Doc­u­ment on the Meth­ods for Se­lect­ing the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive in 2017 and for Form­ing the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil in 2016” on Wed­nes­day.

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