|By the time you read this article, the first Selection
Committee should have already accomplished its historic
tasks of choosing the territory's first Chief Executive
and members of the Provisional Legislature. Many accountants
have asked me to give them an `insider' view. After having
spoken to many fellow accountants in private, it is perhaps
a good time for me openly to give a systematic and concise
analysis of the issue.
I shall begin with some known criticisms, as it is
from this perspective that we can learn valuable lessons.
The Selection Committee has been criticised as being
`tightly-controlled by Beijing; a game for a small circle
of privileged people and unjustly dominated by pro-china
business-men'. Rather, to take things at face value,
accountants should ask themselves the following pertinent
questions. How valid are these criticisms? What are
the long-term implications?
The return of Hong Kong to the mainland is a very important
historic event to China. This high profile issue is
taking place against the background of a difficult Sino-British
relationship and consolidation of the political powers
of the leadership in China. It was inevitable that the
Chinese officials in charge of handling this issue would
err on the side of caution rather than taking chances.
They also had the unenviable task of having to hold
the selections in Hong Kong by remote control, without
a proper legal framework and process to ensure a credible
election that is so vital for the HKSAR government.
Despite these severe constraints, it was decided that
the candidacy of the Selection Committee should be entirely
open to all. There was absolutely no political control.
This very important decision has laid down a sound basis
for the future. I believe that as we evolve, more and
more people from different political back-grounds will
choose to join the Selection Committee. Because Hong
Kong will no longer be under British rule after 1997,
China will feel even more relaxed towards the possibility
of the selection process being undermined by hostile
elements. In the next election, those who decided not
to join the Selection Committee solely because of their
views on the establishment of the `one-off' Provisional
Legislature, will also lose their excuse for not joining.
It cannot be denied that the 400-member Selection Committee
is a small group of elite to be tasked with making such
important decisions for Hong Kong. However, many commentators
have already pointed out that members of the Selection
Committee were elected by the Preparatory Committee
from a broad range of backgrounds. As such, they represented
a miniature community reflecting the full diversity
of views in Hong Kong.
This simple mechanism enables us to achieve the transfer
of power through peaceful means, without any use of
force or political coercion. The whole process of inviting
nominations and voting in public by the Preparatory
Committee was totally transparent. There was absolutely
no evidence of any abuse of power or underhand methods.
It has provided a good basis for a credible selection
procedure to be further developed in future.
Looking ahead, the Selection Committee will no elect
the whole Legislative Council of the HKSAR in 1998.
I believe the first Legislature will again be formed
by a combination of seats elected by universal suffrage
and functional constituencies. The use of the Selection
Committee to elect the Chief Executive, an important
step forward in itself from the appointment method used
by the British up to 1997, will take another evolutionary
step in the year 2007.
As proposed by the HKSA, art 45 of the Basic Law states
that `The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief
Executive by universal suffrage...'. We are therefore
committed to review the present system in the context
of a wider political franchise.
The noticeable imbalance of the present Selection Committee
in favour of pro-China political groups and the business
sector has even surprised many Preparatory Committee
members. After the dust settled, it was not difficult
to see why. With over one-third of the Preparatory Committee
members being mainland members, they would naturally
prefer candidates who hold titles that are familiar
to them, such as Hong Kong deputies to the National
People's Congress, Hong Kong members of the National
Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative
Conference, fellow Preparatory Committee members, Hong
Kong Affairs Advisers and current Legislative Councilors.
The special preference of this significant group of
voters would naturally skew the final selection result.
Although we have still to find a way to form the Selection
Committee for future elections, the process is unlikely
to involve mainland members again. This factor, which
may lead to a natural bias, will be removed and it will
be entirely up to the people of Hong Kong to pick the
right members to represent them on these important Committees.
There were many unfair allegations of corruption and
political manipulation by commentators from some quarters.
None was backed up by even a shred of evidence. In reality,
political influence in a sophisticated place like Hong
Kong works in a much more subtle and civilised way.
I will readily confirm that extensive informal consultation,
as envisaged by the Basic Law, did take place and that
it occurred in a way similar to normal political lobbying
practiced in all democratic systems.
The Selection Committee was formed by a clean and transparent
process. All those involved exercised their own independent
free will to nominate, to vote and to be selected. There
was no trace of violence or political coercion. It is
a sound starting point to build our confidence, as well
as that of China's, before we take the next bold step
towards greater autonomy and a higher degree of democracy
in the formation of the first HKSAR Legislature in 1998.