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 (May 26):
On May 7, 2010, the Secretary for Justice said that universal suffrage had to comply with the principles of "universality" and "equality". The Hong Kong Bar Association stated on November 18, 2009 that the existing functional constituency (FC) elections fail to comply with the legal principles of universality and equality. On the same day, the Law Society of Hong Kong stated that retention of functional constituencies is inconsistent with the ultimate goal of universal and equal suffrage. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether it has assessed:
(a) how FC elections can comply with the criterion of being equal in terms of voting right, the right to stand for election and the weighting for the vote;
(b) how FC elections can comply with the criterion of being universal and equal in terms of the right to stand for election even if all voters may vote in FC elections; and
(c) how FC elections can comply with the criterion of being equal in terms of the weighting for each vote even if all voters may vote in FC and geographical constituency elections?
My consolidated reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:
The consistent position of the HKSAR Government is that the existing electoral method for the functional constituencies (FCs) of the Legislative Council (LegCo) does not comply with the principles of universality and equality. The existing electoral arrangements cannot be maintained when universal suffrage for the LegCo is implemented.
Regarding how the FCs should be dealt with when universal suffrage for the LegCo is implemented in 2020, different sectors of the community and various political parties/groups of the LegCo still have extremely diverse views on this issue:
(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 electorate base of the FCs should be broadened, 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 geographical constituency (GC) election, and the other in the FC election. However, there are views that under this model, the right to stand for election and the weight of each vote among different sectors may not be equal.
The general principle of equality of voting power does not necessarily require precise arithmetic equality with regard to each vote. For example, in GC elections, there can be reasonable variations amongst the constituencies in respect of the ratio between the number of seats and the size of population. Currently, there can be a variation of 15 per cent in the ratio of the number of seats to population for the direct GC elections in Hong Kong.
We also note that during the public consultation on the two electoral methods for 2012, the opinion poll conducted by Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong indicates that about half of the respondents consider that the FCs should be abolished when universal suffrage for the LegCo is implemented, while about 37 per cent consider that the FCs should be retained. However, the opinion poll conducted by the Public Opinion Programme at the University of Hong Kong indicates that about 40 per cent consider that the FCs of the LegCo should not be abolished, while about 36 per cent consider that the FCs should be abolished.
It is, therefore, evident that there are still diverse views within the community on how the FCs should be dealt with when universal suffrage is implemented, and that no consensus has emerged yet. This is indeed an issue on which the Hong Kong community would need to build consensus. At the current stage, we have yet to form any views on whether the FCs should be abolished or retained when universal suffrage for the LegCo is implemented. However, we have already made it clear that the future universal suffrage model must comply with the Basic Law and the principles of universality and equality.
Ends/Wednesday, May 26, 2010