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Motion Debate on ¡§Democratic Development in the Legislative Council¡¨

(1992.6.24)


MR ERIC LI: Mr Deputy President, since the introduction of directly elected Legislative Council seats last year, many people have pointed out that the era for consensus politics in Hong Kong has passed. The OMELCO Consensus can be called a "masterpiece" of that era. Though the OMELCO Consensus at one time had a historic mission to fulfill and merited a positive evaluation, to have it revived now would be out of place and out of time.

What the people of Hong Kong must face, but cannot get used to, is the changing diplomatic gimmicks of the Chinese and the British Governments. We find ourselves restrained. Hong Kong's party politics has just gotten off the ground. Each party wishes to project a distinctive image of its platform and the interests it represents. Political parties often cling stubbornly to their respective positions and refuse to yield to one another. The people of Hong Kong feel that Hong Kong's politics is fragmented and chaotic. Although this is a necessary phase in the development of democratic politics, yet the people of Hong Kong, faced with the "external worries" and "internal problems" as they are, hope that this "metamorphic phase" will be as short as possible. When politics develops faster into a more mature phase, I hope that Legislative Councillors will, in addition to establishing their own distinctive positions, strengthen consultation with one another and take care of the many matters that are of "mutual interest", particularly in the area of external affairs where they should display concerted purpose and effort. Then, people will sense the solidarity of this Council and take this Council as a force to be reckoned with. Nothing short of this will benefit Hong Kong.

The Basic Law is the solemn result of vigorous consultation between China and the United Kingdom. Though I think that the people of Hong Kong have not changed their minds about supporting the OMELCO Consensus, I still respect the Basic Law as I would any final result of full consultation. Nor will I favour any unjustified proposal to revise it. In fact, the Legislative Council, in suddenly and

"unilaterally" making a high profile move to lodge an "appeal" at this time, is walking into a British trap and such a move will easily become a bargaining chip for use in the airport talks. This will have no positive effect at all on relations with China. It will only invite charges of "breach of faith," deepen the contradiction and

misunderstanding between China and Hong Kong and make the people of Hong Kong feel more troubled. I think that the people of Hong Kong should control their impulse. This is not because I am afraid of brute power but because, in the final analysis, we must find a more effective policy, a policy that is better for the long-term development of Hong Kong's democratic political system.

I think that, whenever a request is made to China to revise the Basic Law, there should be "new arguments, new facts or new circumstances". We cannot blame China for not heeding us if we merely "harp on an old tune". The consistent Chinese position is that Hong Kong does not have an adequate foundation for a democratic political system since the directly elected Legislative Councillors won very small numbers of votes. This "reality" must be changed. Broadening democratic representation is the best justification for proposing a faster pace of democratic politics to China.

In 1988, that is, before the OMELCO Consensus was reached, I took the lead in proposing changes to Articles 45 and 67 in the first draft of the Basic Law. I proposed adding a provision to make universal suffrage the final objective of political development, to increase the popularly elected Legislative Council seats gradually and to regard a 50% voter turn-out rate as the "trigger point" for full-scale universal suffrage. These proposals were later incorporated into the "Proposal of 89." Everybody knows what happened subsequently. Articles 45 and 68 of the Basic Law now provide additionally that the Chief Executive and all members of the legislature will eventually be returned by universal suffrage. As for my proposals about a "trigger point" and about gradually increasing popularly elected Legislative Council seats, they have evolved into the present "time-table" for political development. Under the political time-table concept, when this "final objective" of the Basic Law is to be attained will depend on the "realities" in the Special Administrative Region.

In fact, the design of the "trigger point" is unique. There is no contradiction between it and the political development time-table. It is an extra insurance. It provides a way to expedite the political time-table. It also shows the people of Hong Kong a clear goal that is objective and attainable. It at the same time has the effect of a referendum. It is easy to implement and can be implemented without additional manpower or material resources.

In reviving this "trigger point" concept, my point is not to hang onto a personal principle. It is that, being the original designer of the concept, I felt, and still do, great pity for its passing. The people of Hong Kong at the time did not have a spirit of "self-respect and self-trust." Later, when the emphasis was on the overriding objective of smooth transition, they gave up their fight to have a "trigger point" provision incorporated into the Basic Law. They let slip the opportunity for attaining universal suffrage sooner. The result has been that we are having no end of a row over the pace of political development. Although the "trigger point" concept has become history, the spirit behind it is still worth taking reference from.

The development of a democratic political system should not be an empty shell. The proper way to fight for it is for the citizenry to take direct action to make their wishes known. If they wish to be the masters of their own house, if they wish to create a positive "reality" for representative government, they should go out and take part in voting. If we then propose "full-scale universal suffrage" to China, the Chinese side will have no justification for rejecting our proposal. I think that this will be more effective than forcing the British to bargain with China on half of the people of Hong Kong.

The Honourable Jimmy McGREGOR's motion today asks Councillors to take a position. I think that such a course of action is of no help to the long-term development of a democratic political system. I hope that this Council, while indulging in high-sounding talks, will not forget that politicians who will administer Hong Kong must have both "guts" and "ideas." Preferably, we will not have one group of people who have the "guts" and another group who have the "ideas." What is even more necessary is sincerity in consultation. Nothing short of this will finally give voters confidence in the real outcome of political development. There is a saying about "trying to do what is known to be impossible." If such a principle were to be the yardstick with which to measure the soundness of one's political judgment, then, no matter how much sincerity there might be, the effect would be the same as the effect of "the emperor's new clothes." There would be some routine praise for a time. In the end, however, voters would be bound to realize the emptiness of it. From a pragmatic angle, I do not approve of "struggle" as a means of fighting for something. I hope that Hong Kong's politicians will display more verve and dynamism in making suggestions that are more far-sighted than the present motion.

This Council should not force the British side to do what it will be difficult for them to do, that is to say, to create a democratic environment for Hong Kong. But this does not mean that we should give up. The people of Hong Kong should proceed in the spirit of "self-trust and self-respect." They should regard full-scale universal suffrage as their long-term objective. They should urge the Government to strengthen civic education and to do their best to speed up voter registration. In civic education, importance should be attached to teaching knowledge about contemporary China. This will dilute the Hong Kong people's attitude of confrontation towards China. Hong Kong and China differ in their understanding of the representative nature of universal suffrage. The truth, where it does exist, cannot be made clear in a hurry. If the people of Hong Kong really take the actual step of registering themselves as voters and then going out to vote by way of expressing their wishes, that then will be conducive to peace and to the removal of the "cause of friction" between China and Hong Kong.

Mr Deputy President, I so make my submission.

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