LCQ4: Position and reaction of middle class towards universal suffrage
Following is a question by Hon Lee Wing Tat and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (November 30):
It has been reported that when attending a meeting of the Wan Chai District Council earlier, the Chief Secretary for Administration said that "if universal suffrage is implemented in Hong Kong with no change to the existing councils, our middle class are bound to suffer miserably, and will all flee". Regarding the position and reaction of the middle class towards the implementation of universal suffrage, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the justifications for the above remark, and whether it represents the stance of the Government;
(b) whether it has assessed if the above remark will cause more middle-class people to take part in the petition activities on December 4 this year to express their wish for the expeditious implementation of universal suffrage and the formulation of a timetable for universal suffrage; if it has, of the assessment results; and
(c) whether it has conducted analysis of the two July 1 marches in the past, in which tens of thousands of people, including the middle class, took part in the petition activities to demand the expeditious implementation of universal suffrage; if it has, of the outcome of the analysis?
Regarding the first part of the question, the remarks by the Chief Secretary for Administration (CS) at the meeting of the Wanchai District Council (DC) on November 15, 2005 were made in response to concerns expressed by some quarters of the community on the issues involved. Subsequently, the CS provided further elaboration on this matter at the meeting of the Central and Western DC on November 24. He intended to bring out two messages. Firstly, like other Hong Kong people, the middle class support universal suffrage as the ultimate aim of Hong Kong’s constitutional development. Secondly, the Legislative Council (LegCo) is composed of directly elected seats and functional constituency (FC) seats. The directly elected seats represent members of the public in different districts, while the FCs ensure that the voices of various functional groups are heard in the legislature. When the LegCo is to be returned by universal suffrage, the FCs will no longer exist in their current form. In the circumstances, the question as to how we could maintain balanced participation in a directly elected legislature and ensure compliance with the requirements in the Basic Law relating to public finance and low tax policy is worthy of thorough study and debate by the community. The middle class is one of the key forces in upholding social stability. If, after universal suffrage is implemented, the composition of the LegCo cannot continue to balance and meet the interests of various strata, the middle class may get worried and their burden increased. The CS is of the view that in considering how universal suffrage should be attained, this range of issues needs to be addressed.
Regarding the second part of the question, the remarks made by the CS and the march on December 4 are two distinct issues. His aim was to encourage the community to explore issues relating to universal suffrage from different perspectives. Implementing universal suffrage involves not merely electoral arrangements based on one-man-one-vote. A legislature returned by universal suffrage must continue to balance the interests of various parties and ensure that the concerns of the minority are taken care of, thereby upholding the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong.
The right of demonstration is protected by the Basic Law. The SAR Government will respect and listen to the views expressed by Hong Kong people on constitutional development through any legal means, including demonstration activities.
Regarding the third part of the question, the SAR Government has been following closely the views on constitutional development expressed by members of the public through various channels. We understand that while Hong Kong people have a clear desire for progress in the electoral arrangements for 2007 and 2008, they also hope to have a roadmap for future constitutional development. As for the electoral methods for 2007/2008, the SAR Government will strive to secure the support of the LegCo Members to ensure passage of the government proposals. Regarding the direction for future constitutional development, we have entrusted the Governance and Political Development Committee under the Commission on Strategic Development to study the issue of formulating a roadmap for attaining universal suffrage. Topics to be discussed include the issues raised by the CS at the DC meetings, that is, how to ensure the principles of "balanced participation" and "meeting the interests of the different sectors of society" can be preserved. The committee held its first meeting on November 29.
Ends/Wednesday, November 30, 2005