Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has long come in for heavy criticism for preferring to talk the talk rather than walk the walk when it comes to policy. The latest example is his effort on electoral reform for the 2016 Legislative Council and 2017 chief executive polls.
Leung got the process under way with a report to the central government Tuesday asking Beijing to allow electoral reform. The focus for the public was on two issues: whether the report shut the door on public nominations for chief executive candidates and whether it included a mechanism to screen out potential runners.
In the fog of the last two years, both the public and Leung appear to have forgotten what Leung promised in his election manifesto in 2012 when he promised to fight for a more democratic electoral system.
According to the manifesto, Leung made three points on constitutional reform. He proposed:
1. Reforming the 2016 Legislative Council functional constituency elections and expanding the electorate to make the membership more representative and accountable to the community at large;
2. Engaging the public and seeking the support of the central government and the Legislative Council to realize universal suffrage for the chief executive election in 2017, and laying the groundwork for universal suffrage for the 2020 Legislative Council election; and
3. Abolishing all the appointed district council seats in 2016.
So far, Leung has only achieved the third point. The other two, which are most important to the city’s democratic development, are nowhere to be seen.
Leung said in his report Tuesday that “the method for forming the Legislative Council in 2016 need not be amended.” The statement goes completely against his promise to make the council more representative.
The public is also looking for a big improvement in the makeup of the council given that half of the councillors are elected by small-circle functional constituencies. Such seats, which are determined by various businesspeople and influential chambers of commerce in the city, act in their industries’ interests and prevent Legco from passing laws that benefit the public as a whole. This has been on show in the last few weeks with the rough-and-ready approval of funding for housing developments in the New Territories.
The members of functional constituencies are also among the loudest voices of opposition to the Occupy Central campaign. Former lawmaker Martin Lee has criticized functional constituencies for a decade, saying “the smaller the constituency, the easier it is for Beijing to control the result. The seats are specifically designed by the government to exclude the public and anoint pro-Beijing candidates.”
If nothing changes with these constituencies, they will continue to undermine the 35 directly elected council members, making the council a rubber stamp for the government. And that can only be bad for governance in the city.
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