|LCQ3: Method for electing the Chief Executive and for forming the Legislative Council
Following is a question by the Hon Emily Lau and an oral reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (July 2):
At its Session in December last year, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) decided that the selection of the Chief Executive (CE) and the election of the Legislative Council (LegCo) in 2012 should not be implemented by the method of universal suffrage (dual universal suffrage). The NPCSC did not make any specific undertaking to implement dual universal suffrage in 2017 and 2020. When seeking re-election in March last year, the CE indicated that he would put forward an ultimate proposal for implementing universal suffrage. However, when attending the Question and Answer Session of this Council on May 15 this year, the CE stated that the electoral system of functional constituencies, with modifications, could be in line with the principles of universal and equal suffrage, and could also be regarded as falling within the meaning of universal suffrage. In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:
(a) given that the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations had pointed out in its concluding observations published in 1995 that “the concept of functional constituencies, which gives undue weight to the views of the business community, discriminates among voters on the basis of property and functions. This clearly constitutes a violation of Articles 2, paragraph 1, 25(b) and 26” of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Committee also recommended that immediate steps should be taken by the authorities to ensure that the electoral system should be put in conformity with Articles 21, 22 and 25 of the ICCPR, whether the authorities will consider afresh abolishing all functional constituency seats of the LegCo, so that the electoral system for the LegCo election will be in conformity with the ICCPR;
(b) how the authorities will convince the people of Hong Kong and the international community that the nomination system for the future CE election will comply with the standards of the above international covenant, and that the requirement in Article 45 of the Basic Law regarding the nomination of CE election candidates by a nominating committee will not be used as a screening mechanism to exclude people who are not accepted by those in power from standing for the CE election; and
(c) how the authorities will convince the people of Hong Kong that they will draw up the proposals on the methods for selecting the fifth CE in 2017 and forming the seventh term LegCo in 2020 in accordance with the “ultimate proposal for implementing universal suffrage” mentioned by the CE last year?
(a) Regarding the ICCPR, the consistent position of the Government is that when the Covenant was applied to Hong Kong in 1976, a reservation was made not to apply Article 25(b) insofar as it might require the establishment of an elected Executive or Legislative Council in Hong Kong. In accordance with the notification given by the Central People’s Government to the United Nations Secretary-General in June 1997 and Article 39 of the Basic Law, this reservation continues to apply to the HKSAR.
The existing electoral method for returning the LegCo functional constituency seats is not consistent with the principle of universal suffrage. However, the decision adopted by the NPCSC in December last year has determined the timetable for attaining universal suffrage in Hong Kong, i.e. the CE may be elected by universal suffrage in 2017 and the LegCo may be elected by universal suffrage in 2020.
Regarding the implementation of universal suffrage for the LegCo, in discussing the relevant universal suffrage models, the community would have to deal with the issue of functional constituencies so as to ensure that the future universal suffrage model for the LegCo could comply with the principles of universal and equal suffrage.
(b) In the Green Paper on Constitutional Development, we made it clear that, in implementing universal suffrage for the CE, the method of nomination should:
* comply with the provisions of Article 45 of the Basic Law;
* ensure that candidates have wide support and sufficient legitimacy; and
* provide aspiring individuals with a fair opportunity to be nominated.
Between 2012 and 2017, when the fourth-term HKSAR Government consult the public on the universal suffrage model for electing the CE, different sectors of the community could put forth their proposals on the related issues, including how the CE candidates should be nominated in accordance with democratic procedures. In attaining universal suffrage, the HKSAR Government would have to forge consensus within the Hong Kong community on the universal suffrage electoral model put forth. The model would have to be endorsed by a two-thirds majority of all LegCo members in accordance with the procedures stipulated in Annex I to the Basic Law, and supported by the majority of the public.
(c) During his election campaign, the CE, Mr Donald Tsang, undertook to lead the Hong Kong community to attain universal suffrage as early as possible. In this regard, in the course of six months after formation of the third-term HKSAR Government last July, the Government issued the “Green Paper on Constitutional Development” to consult the public on the models, roadmap and timetable for implementing universal suffrage, published the report on the public consultation, and submitted the report to the NPCSC.
Having considered the CE’s report, the decision adopted by the NPCSC last year has made clear the universal suffrage timetable. Between 2008 and 2012, Hong Kong’s electoral methods could roll forward to a mid-way point. The aim of the Government is to settle the two electoral methods for 2012 within the tenure of the current term in order to enhance democratic elements. This could then lay a solid foundation for attaining universal suffrage for the CE in 2017, and for the LegCo in 2020.
Between 2012 and 2017, the fourth-term CE and the fifth-term LegCo should address together the method for implementing universal suffrage for the CE. The CE taking office in 2017 will have to work with the LegCo returned in 2016 and come up with proposals to attain universal suffrage for the LegCo in 2020. This CE, returned by universal suffrage, will have broad public support to lead the Hong Kong community to resolve this issue.
Ends/Wednesday, July 2, 2008