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Incorporate a mechanism for
public attitude survey on direct elections in next year¡¦s LegCo election

(The Sun, 12 December 2003)

Quite a number of the LegCo members from the functional constituencies are resistant to a direct election of the full legislature in 2008. However, the Hon Eric Li Ka Cheung, representing the accounting sector, suggested incorporating a mechanism in the form of Taiwan¡¦s referendum in next year¡¦s LegCo election, asking voters to indicate whether they support a direct election of the full legislature in 2008. If a two-thirds majority of the voters supported a direct election, there should be a direct election of all LegCo members in 2008. However, he is in support of the election of the Chief Executive in 2007 by universal suffrage, subject to certain constraints.

Eric Li admitted frankly during an interview that he never thought the Central Government would accept his proposal. What he aimed for was to provoke discussions on this issue. He pointed out that in the long process of political reform, it would be hard to avoid unforeseeable variables and that people might take to the streets again. Incorporating such a mechanism would thus eliminate the unstable factors. He said, ¡§It is not that easy to gain the support of two-thirds of the voters for direct election. It is in fact a very safe proposal. However, if there is really a two-thirds majority vote for direct elections, it would be hard for the functional constituencies and the Central Government to reject.¡¨

Ideal plan: Political reform in three stages

Eric Li considered it ideal to have direct elections by universal suffrage implemented in three stages over a span of 20 years according to the principle of gradual and orderly progress as stipulated in the Basic Law. The first stage would be an increase of 30 directly elected seats in the first two LegCo elections starting from 2008, i.e. 60 directly elected seats plus 30 functional constituency seats. The second stage would be to turn the election of the functional constituencies into a form of direct election after the first two LegCo elections were held. The third stage would be to implement direct election of the full legislature from the seventh LegCo election onwards, i.e. from the year 2024.

Regarding the election of the Chief Executive, Eric Li supported a middle course. He suggested turning the 800-member Electoral Committee into a nomination committee which nominates a short list of candidates who are broadly acceptable by the Central Government. The Chief Executive would then be elected from the candidates by universal suffrage. This election method could be retained until the full legislature became directly elected. At that time, one-adult-one-vote universal suffrage could be implemented.

Chan Kam Lam worried about the survey being overly simplistic

Concerning Eric Li¡¦s proposal of a variant form of a referendum, Legislative Councillor Chan Kam Lam of DAB thought as voters might not have in-depth knowledge of the future political reform, the result of the consultation might be unsatisfactory and overly simplistic. Independent Legislative Councillor Andrew Wong Wang Fat said that the enactment of legislation must be considered before holding a referendum. Dr Raymond Wu Wai Yung, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People¡¦s Congress, declined to comment and said, ¡§One must not give away a ¡¥heavenly¡¦ secret. Let him say what he likes!¡¨

Dr Li Pang Kwong, Associate Professor from the Department of Politics and Sociology at the Lingnan University, said that the original intent of this proposal was good, but the reality was that the Central Government would not accept it. Dr Timothy Wong Ka Ying, Research Officer of the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, worried that the ¡§referendum¡¨ would leave an after-effect by setting a precedent for the policies in the future which would bring endless trouble for the Beijing Government.

Reporter: ³Á廸¤¯


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