Speech – Implementing dual universal suffrage (Lo Wai Kwok)

President, regarding the implementation of dual universal suffrage, there are diverse public views and no consensus has yet been reached on any specific proposal. Since the reunification in 1997, Hong Kong has experienced lots of controversies over our constitutional development. Every single step is difficult and arduous. It was on 29 December 2007 that the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) made a decision on universal suffrage and set a timetable under which the method of universal suffrage may be implemented in the 2017 Chief Executive Election and the election of Legislative Council thereafter.

As the timetable for implementing universal suffrage has not come by easily, I propose an amendment today to urge the SAR Government to pragmatically and properly handle this issue in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Law and the relevant decisions of the NPCSC. I am rather disappointed that Mr Ronny TONG, the mover of the original motion, does not seem to have paid much attention to the wording of my amendment. In fact, I have amended the point “expeditiously” in his original motion to make it more specific by requesting the SAR Government to “reserve sufficient time to conduct extensive consultation …… so as to allow sufficient time for the general public to discuss the contents of the consultation document”. I have not deleted the word “discuss”. I hope Mr Ronny TONG can read my amendment carefully.

President, in my view, if dual universal suffrage has to be implemented properly, we must adhere to two principles. First, the principle of “one country, two systems”. According to Article 12 of the Basic Law, “The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) shall be a local administrative region of the People’s Republic of China, which shall enjoy a high degree of autonomy and come directly under the Central People’s Government.” Article 158 provides that the power of interpretation of the Basic Law shall be vested in the NPCSC.
These are the specific constitutional rules on “one country, two systems” and the relationship between the Central Government and the HKSAR. It will be impractical to overlook these rules, either intentionally or unintentionally, when we discuss the implementation of dual universal suffrage.

The second principle is “in the light of the actual situation in Hong Kong” and “gradual and orderly progress”. Article 45 of the Basic Law provides that “The method for selecting the Chief Executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with  democratic procedures.” Article 68 also specifies: “The method for forming the Legislative Council shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is the election of all the members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage.” These two Articles are the major legal bases of “Method for the Selection of the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region” (Annex I to the Basic Law), “Method for the Formation of the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Its Voting Procedures” (Annex II to the Basic Law) and the relevant decision of the NPCSC.

President, what is the actual situation in Hong Kong? I think we have to at least consider two points. Firstly, as Hong Kong is a local administrative region in China, our final proposal for dual universal suffrage must have the broadest consensus among Hong Kong people, as well as the consent of the Central Government, to reflect the objective fact of “one country, two systems” as stated in our constitution and avoid bringing significant political and constitutional risks. Secondly, the proposal should be built on the existing system to ensure that balanced participation can be maintained to give proper protection to the interests and expression of views of different social strata.

The gradual and orderly progress stated in Article 68 of the Basic Law is obviously suggesting that Hong Kong should move towards the ultimate aim of dual universal suffrage step by step in a pragmatic manner. According to the decision adopted by the NPCSC on 29 December 2007, dual universal suffrage will be implemented in two steps: The election of the fifth Chief Executive of the HKSAR in the year 2017 may be implemented by the method of universal suffrage; after the Chief Executive is selected by universal suffrage, the election of the  legislative Council of the HKSAR may be implemented by the method of electing all the Members by universal suffrage. This decision has set a timetable on the one hand and provided a rule with legal effect on the other to avoid unnecessary arguments. From this decision, we can clearly know that universal suffrage may only be implemented in the Legislative Council Election after the Chief Executive is elected by universal suffrage. Therefore, the 2016 Legislative Council Election cannot be implemented by the method of electing all the Members by universal suffrage.

President, the NPCSC has also clearly stated in the aforesaid decision that at an appropriate time prior to the selection of the Chief Executive and the election of all Legislative Council Members by universal suffrage, the Chief Executive shall make a report to the NPCSC as regards the issue of amending the methods for selecting the Chief Executive and forming the Legislative Council in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Basic Law and the interpretation by the NPCSC of Annex I and Annex II to the Basic Law; a determination thereon shall be made by the NPCSC. The bills on the amendments to the methods for selecting the Chief Executive and forming the Legislative Council and the proposed amendments to such bills shall be introduced by the Government of the HKSAR to the Legislative Council; such amendments must be made with the endorsement of a two-thirds majority of all the Members of the Legislative Council and the consent of the Chief Executive and they shall be reported to the NPCSC for approval. In other words, the amendments made to the methods for selecting the Chief Executive and forming the Legislative Council must go through these five steps for the whole process to complete. They cannot be decided unilaterally by any party.

The Basic Law and the rules made by the NPCSC only intend to lay down the basic principles. In the course of implementing dual universal suffrage, many problems will arise and have to be solved. Let us take the method for selecting the Chief Executive by universal suffrage as an example. How should the nominating committee be formed for it to be broadly representative? How should the nomination be made for it to meet democratic requirements? How should the 2016 legislative Council Election be conducted to give gradual and orderly progress and allow balanced participation so that we can move towards the ultimate aim of electing all Members by universal suffrage?

President, in paragraph 195 of the 2013 Policy Address, Chief Executive LEUNG Chun-ying has stated that, at an appropriate juncture, the Government will launch a comprehensive consultation on the election methods of the Chief Executive in 2017 and the Legislative Council in 2016, and initiate the constitutional procedures. When will the appropriate juncture be? I think the Government will decide on its own. However, given that it is a complicated issue, I hope that the Government can reserve sufficient time to conduct extensive consultation so as to allow sufficient time for the general public to discuss the content of the consultation document. I also wish to appeal to the various social sectors and political parties in the Legislative Council to have a rational and accommodating attitude of seeking common ground while reserving differences, to remain open and strive to forge social consensus in the process, and join hands to promote and achieve the aim of dual universal suffrage. If we all refuse to yield or simply argue for the sake of arguing, we are likely to make no headway but just waste our time. By then, dual universal suffrage will become something in sight but beyond reach. Of course, in the report on constitutional reform to be submitted to the NPCSC, the Chief Executive must truthfully and fully reflect the views of the general public.

President, the smooth implementation of dual universal suffrage in Hong Kong hinges on the positive interaction and mutual trust between Hong Kong and the Central Government (Mr Ronny TONG has just pointed out the issue of mutual trust). We must hence act in strict adherence to the Basic Law and the relevant decision of the NPCSC. Meanwhile, the smooth implementation relies on the concerted efforts of Hong Kong people in reaching the broadest consensus and, more importantly, the relevant bills and amendments being made with the endorsement of a two-thirds majority of all the Legislative Council Members, the consent of the Chief Executive and the approval of the NPCSC. Apart from this route, there can be no way out.

President, I so submit.