Following is a question by the Hon Audrey Eu and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (January 6):
Article 68 of the Basic Law provides that all Members of the Legislative Council (LegCo) will ultimately be elected by universal suffrage. The Bar Association of Hong Kong, The Law Society of Hong Kong and 19 members of the Legal Subsector of the Election Committee have recently pointed out that the LegCo seats for functional constituencies (FCs) do not conform with the universal and equal principle and such a mode of election should be abolished completely. Yet, the Government has proposed, in its Consultation Document on the Methods for Selecting the Chief Executive and for Forming the Legislative Council in 2012 (Consultation Document) released on November 18 last year, addition of LegCo seats for the District Council FC. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether it has studied the criteria and methods for abolishing the FC seats of the LegCo either progressively or at one go; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(b) given that the Government has indicated in the Consultation Document that regarding the electorate base of the FCs in the methods for forming the LegCo in 2012, the Government "is inclined not to adopt the method of replacing 'corporate votes' with 'directors/executives/association's/individual votes'. This is because the process would be too complicated and involve the interests of many different sectors and individuals", how the Government ensures that the problem of FC seats can be resolved in 2020, so as to achieve the target of implementing universal suffrage for the LegCo in that year; and
(c) given that some political parties have proposed the designation of one Member from each of the five geographical constituencies of the LegCo to resign and the adoption of "implementation of genuine universal suffrage and abolition of FCs" as the subject for a de facto referendum, whether the Government will undertake to abolish all FC seats of the LegCo not later than 2020, so as to avoid this de facto referendum; if not, of the reasons for that?
(a) Through the discussions of the Commission on Strategic Development in 2006, the HKSAR Government conducted studies on the universal suffrage models for the Legislative Council (LegCo) and the transitional arrangements leading to universal suffrage. The Government also summarised the relevant discussions and studies in the Green Paper on Constitutional Development (the Green Paper) published in July 2007.
We made it clear in the Green Paper that, in considering the options for implementing universal suffrage for the Chief Executive (CE) and the LegCo, we must consider, in accordance with the relevant provisions and principles of the Basic Law, whether the relevant options could comply with:
(i) the basic policies of the State regarding Hong Kong;
(ii) the four principles on constitutional development, namely, meeting the interests of different sectors of society, facilitating the development of the capitalist economy, gradual and orderly progress, and being appropriate to the actual situation in Hong Kong; and
(iii) the principles of universal and equal suffrage.
In considering the universal suffrage model for the LegCo, we also have to take into account the constitutional and political reality that 30 out of the 60 LegCo seats are returned by functional constituencies (FCs). As any amendment to the electoral method for the LegCo requires the endorsement of a two-thirds majority of all the members of the LegCo, in practice, this means that the support of members returned by FCs as well as those returned by geographical constituencies (GCs) through direct elections will be required.
Regarding the universal suffrage model for the LegCo, particularly how the existing FCs should be dealt with, the outcome of the public consultation on the Green Paper indicates that there are diverse views within the community:
(i) there are views that all FC seats should be abolished and replaced by district-based seats returned by universal suffrage, i.e. the "one-person-one-vote" model;
(ii) there are views that the FC seats should be retained, but the electoral model should be changed, for example, by allowing the FCs to nominate candidates for election by all voters of Hong Kong, i.e. the "one-person-two-votes" model whereby each voter can cast one vote in the GC election, and the other in the FC election; and
(iii) there are also views that transitional arrangements could first be put in place, for example, to abolish the FC seats in phases. However, there are also views that this would lead to disputes as to which FCs should be abolished first, which would not be easy to resolve.
(b) The HKSAR Government is inclined not to adopt the method of replacing "corporate votes" with "director's/executive's/association's/individual votes" because different political parties and members, as well as different organisations both inside and outside the LegCo have diverse views on how the electorate base of the FCs should be changed. It will be extremely difficult for the community to reach consensus before the LegCo election is held in 2012.
Regarding the universal suffrage model for the LegCo in 2020, the community will have sufficient time to discuss how the FCs should be dealt with and forge consensus.
(c) Regarding how the FCs should be dealt with in the long term, the HKSAR Government understands that there are many different views among various sectors of the community, including that in the LegCo, some political parties propose that the FCs should be abolished, but at the same time, there are other political parties which propose that the FCs should be retained. This issue will continue to be a subject of controversy both inside and outside the LegCo and cannot be resolved within a short period of time.
It is the position of the HKSAR Government that we should, at this stage, endeavour to democratise the LegCo election in 2012. In this connection, we propose that, in the 70-seat strong LegCo, consideration may be given to allocating the new FC seats to elected District Council members, so as to increase the number of the LegCo seats to be returned by the GCs through direct or indirect elections to about 60 per cent.
As to how the FCs should be dealt with in future, the community should continue the discussion on how the LegCo elections in 2012 and 2016 should be democratised step by step, so as to attain universal suffrage that can comply with the principles of universality and equality in 2020.
Ends/Wednesday, January 6, 2010