Eric Li: Direct election of the Chief Executive
(Hong Kong Economic Times, 22nd December 2003)
While the society is engaging in a polarized debate over the political reform of Hong Kong, the Hon. Eric Li Ka-cheung, convener of the Breakfast Group and representative of the accounting constituency, criticized that the discussions have been taken to extremes without logical analysis, leaving no option for those who support a middle course. He proposed that the political reform should be implemented in a gradual and orderly manner, with direct election of the Chief Executive in 2007 first with a high threshold of nomination and then election of the full legislature by universal suffrage in 2024.
Hong Kong needs to fulfil its obligations
Political reform should take into account views of the Central government
In an interview with Hong Kong Economic Times, Eric Li suggested achieving the ultimate aim of direct elections for the Chief Executive and the legislature over a span of 10 to 20 years (See table). He said that he supported universal suffrage for the CE election in 2007 but the threshold of nomination should be lowered in a gradual and orderly manner to avoid scaring of the commercial and the industrial sectors in the process of democratic development.
He suggested turning the present 800-member Election Committee into a nomination committee and that all candidates must first obtain 200 votes from the Election Committee before becoming a candidate for direct election.
He emphasized, ¡§We are not an independent country. We should not just enjoy the benefits from ¡¥One country, two systems¡¦ without fulfilling our obligations.¡¨ He pointed out that political reform was not only the business of Hong Kong people. The viewpoints of the Central government should also be taken into account.
The nomination threshold of the Chief Executive election to be lowered from 200 to 100 votes
Critics pointed out that if the nomination threshold was set at 200 votes, even a democrat would be able to become a candidate and would probably win the election through universal suffrage. Eric Li responded that some might feel that a threshold of 200 votes was too low, but he pointed out that candidates should not be a factor for consideration in establishing a mechanism for election. He said that as party politics became more mature, the nomination threshold could gradually be lowered to 100 or even less votes by 2027.
As for the LegCo elections, Eric Li was of the view that full direct elections should be implemented in stages. He proposed that in 2008, the LegCo could add 30 directly elected geographical constituency seats to the current 30 directly elected seats and 30 functional constituency (FC) seats, making a total of 90 LegCo seats. In 2016, each of the 30 FC would nominate three candidates for direct election and in 2024, the 90 LegCo seats would be returned by universal suffrage.
Eric Li said that the proposal was just his own suggestion and hoped that it could form the basis for discussion for both democrats and the Central government. When asked whether the proposal would satisfy neither party, he said, ¡§That alone is strong evidence that the proposal is a good and moderate one.¡¨
Direct election of the full legislature in 2008 to be determined by a referendum
Regarding how fast the pace of democratization should be, Eric Li said that this issue could be determined by the Hong Kong people in a referendum. If there is a two-thirds majority vote for direct elections of the full legislature in 2008, he believed that the functional constituencies and the Central Government would be unlikely to oppose the proposal.
He continued that political reform would, to a certain extent, help improve the Executive-Legislative relations. He said, ¡§Patten (Chris Patten, ex-Hong Kong Governor), is a talent in politics, but he still had a hard time in administering the government departments just before the change of sovereignty. No doubt the Chief Executive has been experiencing an even more difficult time in administration under the constraints of the current bizarre political system.¡¨ He believed that political parties would put more efforts in negotiation work after the completion of the political reform, and this would help improve the administration of the government.