20 July 2019
Retired judge Woo Kwok-hing is the only CE candidate  who has come up with a detailed roadmap toward universal suffrage. But his proposal is unlikely to be accepted by Beijing. Photo: HKEJ
Retired judge Woo Kwok-hing is the only CE candidate who has come up with a detailed roadmap toward universal suffrage. But his proposal is unlikely to be accepted by Beijing. Photo: HKEJ

Political reform: Why not start with the easy part?

As the 2017 chief executive election is about to hit the home stretch, there are three fundamental issues on top of the campaign agendas of the various candidates — political reform, enactment of Article 23 of the Basic Law and housing.

From this week, I am going to discuss these issues one by one in my column. This week, I will begin with political reform.

Let me first provide readers with a brief account of the candidates’ stance on this issue. The two major hopefuls — former chief secretary Carrie Lam and former financial secretary John Tsang — have both stated that they would rather defer reopening political reform and instead focus on other policy issues once elected.

They argue that both Legco and the public have remained highly polarized over this issue and it is unlikely different sectors of society can find common ground on this topic in the short run, so relaunching public consultations on political reform would only reignite controversy.

With regard to Regina Ip, even though reopening political reform is among her nine key election pledges, she hasn’t gone into detail as to how she is going to break the current political deadlock and facilitate consensus-building on this issue.

All she has said is that she would stick to the framework laid down by the “831 Resolution” by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC).

Retired judge Woo Kwok-hing is the only one who has come up with a clear and detailed roadmap toward universal suffrage.

Without touching on the “831 Resolution”, Woo proposed that the number of eligible voters in the Election Committee election be expanded in a step-by-step manner, from the current 250,000 to one million in the 2022 CE election and then three million in 2032, thereby creating our equivalent of the US Electoral College and allowing all eligible voters to cast their votes indirectly for chief executive.

His plan might sound rational and feasible, but unfortunately, the way the number of voters of the Election Committee is expanded under his proposal in fact violates the provisions of the “831 Resolution” that govern the composition of the Election Committee, and therefore is unlikely to be accepted by Beijing.

In my opinion, the major bone of contention with the “831 Resolution” lies in the harsh requirement that a person must get the endorsement of at least 600 instead of the current 150 Election Committee members in order to become an official CE candidate, thereby basically eliminating any possibility of pro-democracy candidates running for CE.

Both Beijing and the pan-democrats have refused to compromise on this sticking point, hence the current political deadlock.

However, despite the fact that the “831 Resolution” has posed a seemingly insurmountable hurdle to our democratization process as far as the CE election is concerned, the NPCSC’s resolution itself hasn’t ruled that our city must take care of universal suffrage over the CE election first before we can start working on the democratization of our Legco elections.

In other words, the “831 Resolution” doesn’t prevent us from shelving the political reform process regarding the CE election for the time being and instead starting to work on the introduction of universal suffrage to our Legco elections first.

If we can’t agree on how to reform our CE election, then why not put it aside for a while and work on the democratization of our Legco elections first?

In fact, reforming our Legco elections first could turn out to be a feasible and viable way to break the current political deadlock and resuscitate our democratization process which has ground to an indefinite halt since the government’s political reform package was vetoed by Legco in June 2015.

Of course, it would be naive to think that either Beijing or the political vested interests would ever agree to abolish the functional constituencies in our legislature once and for all in the next Legco election.

However, if we could find some common ground on this issue and succeed in at least introducing more democratic elements to the 2020 Legco elections, perhaps we could then induce a more politically friendly environment in the days ahead under which we might pave the way for a renewed attempt for consensus-building over the 2022 CE election.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 1

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]


Former Secretary for the Civil Service of the Hong Kong Government

EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe