|LCQ5: Proposals for implementing universal suffrage
Following is a question by Hon Leung Yiu-chung and an oral reply by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (May 23):
The Secretary for Constitutional Affairs has indicated that the Government will set out in the green paper on constitutional development the views put forth by the Commission on Strategic Development (CSD) and the community on the options for implementing universal suffrage. He has also pointed out that the proposal for universal suffrage should satisfy five conditions, which include being consistent with the Basic Law, not requiring any amendments to the main provisions of the Basic Law, having majority support among Hong Kong people, securing two-thirds majority in the Legislative Council (LegCo), and being considered seriously by the Central Authorities. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether the condition that the proposal for universal suffrage should not require any amendments to the main provisions of the Basic Law is set on the basis of the instruction of the Central Government or the Chief Executive (CE); if neither is the case, of the legal basis for setting such a condition;
(b) of the meaning of "being considered seriously by the Central Authorities" which is among the above five conditions, and how the public know the circumstances under which the proposal concerned will or will not be considered seriously by the Central Authorities; and
(c) given that during CSD's discussion on the possible models for selecting CE by universal suffrage, more members supported using the composition of the Election Committee as a basis for considering the composition of the nominating committee for the CE candidature; whether the Government has studied if such a composition method will deprive the general public of their nomination right, and will thus be inconsistent with Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; if it has, of the results of the study; if the study results show that such a composition method is consistent with the relevant requirement, of the justifications for that?
(a) It is the consistent position of the HKSAR Government that amendments to the Basic Law should not be lightly contemplated. According to Article 62 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China (PRC), the systems to be instituted in special administrative regions shall be prescribed by the National People's Congress (NPC). In accordance with Article 31 of the Constitution, the NPC enacted the Basic Law for the HKSAR in order to manifest the "One Country, Two Systems" and the full implementation of the basic policies of the PRC regarding Hong Kong. Hence, any options for implementing universal suffrage must comply with the provisions of the Basic Law.
(b) Regarding the criterion that any universal suffrage options put forth should stand a good chance of being considered seriously by the Central Authorities, this requirement actually reflects the provisions of the Basic Law itself. According to Annexes I and II to the Basic Law, apart from securing support from two-thirds majority in the LegCo and obtaining the consent of the CE, any amendments to the two electoral methods have to be reported to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) for approval or for the record. Therefore, only those universal suffrage options which stand a reasonable chance of securing consensus among the three parties, namely, the LegCo, the CE, and the Central Authorities, are practicable options.
If we can achieve consensus within the Hong Kong community on the option for implementing universal suffrage in accordance with the Basic Law by following the principles of gradual and orderly progress and meeting the actual situation in the HKSAR, we believe that the option will be considered seriously by the Central Authorities.
(c) When the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was applied to Hong Kong in 1976, a reservation was made not to apply Article 25(b) in so far as it might require the establishment of an elected Executive Council or LegCo in Hong Kong. This reservation continues to apply.
The ultimate aim of universal suffrage for Hong Kong's constitutional development originates from the Basic Law, and not the Covenant. Article 45 of the Basic Law has already stipulated that, when implementing universal suffrage for the CE, the CE shall be elected by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.
Ends/Wednesday, May 23, 2007