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President, I am speaking today with a very heavy heart, on behalf of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong (BPA) and the Federation of Hong Kong Industries (FHKI), in support of the motion concerning the amendment to the method for the selection of the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
It has been almost 18 years since the reunification of Hong Kong. Before the reunification, the people of Hong Kong had already been longing for election of the Chief Executive by “one person, one vote” someday. In 2005, we missed our opportunity because of the stubbornness of the pan-democratic Members; in 2012, we made a step forward, yet there was still some distance away from universal suffrage; now Hong Kong comes again to this critical moment of the constitutional reform, at which we have to make the decision in the Legislative Council as on whether Hong Kong may elect its Chief Executive by “one person, one vote” in 2017 or not.
The sincerity of the Central Authorities and the Government of the Special Administrative Region (SAR) in implementing universal suffrage is very clear. In fact, the public opinion also shows clearly that everyone wants to elect the Chief Executive by “one person, one vote” in 2017. It was rather tiresome and frustrating to have seen endless political disputes during the consultation period. These are all words of my heart grown from my personal interactions with members of the public, particularly those from business and industrial as well as professional backgrounds.
Earlier on, the FHKI and the five major business chambers conducted a survey on the constitutional reform package to gauge the views of members, with the result showing that nearly 91% of the interviewees supported the SAR Government’s proposal on the method for selecting the Chief Executive by universal suffrage in 2017 in accordance with the Basic Law and the 31 August Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, whereas only 5.6% of the interviewees did not support the package. We consider that Members of the Legislative Council should vote in favour of the passage of the package, for we believe this will be beneficial to the sustained and stable economic and social development of Hong Kong.
Over the past few months, I saw that the trio of Secretaries of Department and Director of Bureau responsible for the constitutional reform have not stopped with their promotion activities, and they seized the opportunities to lobby the pan-democratic Members proactively. Many friends from the business and industrial sectors as well as members of the public told me that, since this opportunity of taking this very first step is so hard to come by, I ought to vote in support of it so as to let Hong Kong hit the road to democracy. This group of people are mostly centrist electors from the business and industrial or professional backgrounds. They might not necessarily be all enthusiastic in politics, yet it is believed that they care about the development of Hong Kong.
Facing the constitutional reform, everyone is so pragmatic to say that “no matter how much is offered, just pocket it first; for what is yet to gain, keep striving for that”. As we may see, what the current-term SAR Government puts before us is a realistic and feasible package which cannot be denied once it is passed. The current-term Government has already stated at the very beginning that, should it not be passed, there will be no new package to be proposed again, and whether there will be any constitutional reform package to be proposed in the next term of Government, that would be subject to the decision of the next Chief Executive. However, given that our society is now so divided and lacerated without consensus, it would just make society be more divided should a package be mooted arbitrarily. As such, by which term of Government will a package be ever introduced to bring universal suffrage to the people of Hong Kong? Should this opportunity be missed, universal suffrage will just be nowhere in sight.
The 31 August Decision has firmly determined that the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage will be well-realized in 2017, which means universal suffrage for the Legislative Council election can be realized in 2020 the earliest. From another perspective, if this package for 2017 is not passed, it will slow down the process of election of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage as well. This means procrastination of the progress of Hong Kong towards democratic elections, which I trust no politician genuinely serving Hong Kong would like to see. Regarding the view that passing the constitutional reform package means “pocketing it forever”, I do not agree to such a remark. As Mr WANG Guangya, Director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, has stated very clearly, the officials of the relevant authorities in the Central Government in Beijing have never said that “pocket it first” meant “pocket it forever”. The relevant remark is distortive and misleading.
In the constitutional reform package proposed currently, the Chief Executive in 2017 will be returned by the 5 million qualified electors of Hong Kong on the basis of “one person, one vote”. If the citizens of Hong Kong want the constitutional reform of Hong Kong to develop further, they will use their ballots to request the candidates for the Chief Executive election by universal suffrage to promise launching consultations upon being elected, so as to decide whether the “Five-step Process” is to be initiated again for further refinement of the current electoral system. If the constitutional reform and political system were to remain at a standstill, then we could not but continue to let the Chief Executive be returned by the 1 200-member Election Committee in 2017. May we ask: Will this Chief Executive have the incentive to activate the “Five-step Process” again?
The development of democracy cannot be achieved in one step. Every political system will change and adjust itself in response to the local circumstances and actual situation of its society. The current constitutional reform package might not be perfect, and there is actually not such a perfect system for universal suffrage that fits each and every country in the world. Nevertheless, only if we could work together of one mind and keep trying to innovate, there would always be room for progress and improvement.
As the representative for the business, industrial and professional sectors in the Legislative Council, the BPA has been striving with its greatest efforts for support from all walks of life, especially the business, industrial and professional sectors, since the SAR Government commenced the consultation on the constitutional reform package at the end of 2013. Whether the constitutional reform package can be passed or not has a direct bearing on the stable development of the Hong Kong economy and society.
To a certain extent, the political disputes over the past few years have affected the economy and people’s livelihood. All those “filibusters” ― as in Council meetings, in meetings of the Finance Committee, and even in the meetings of the Public Works Subcommittee and Establishment Subcommittee under the Finance Committee ― have caused many relief measures helpful to the public and policies of facilitating business operation and assisting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to be delayed time and again before they could be implemented. Members of the radical camp said they had reasons for such resistance; what we see is that they have taken members of the public, SMEs and the well-being of the 7 million people in Hong Kong as hostages and engaged in internal attrition. Eventually, all Hongkongers will become the major losers with our competitors standing to gain an advantage. What worries the business and industrial sectors most is that in case the constitutional reform package is not passed, the political disputes in Hong Kong will become more and more intense that our competitiveness will be undermined directly as a result.
Although the plight of Hong Kong originated not from the question of whether the Chief Executive is returned by universal suffrage, yet the election of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage will indeed help solve the present mess. With the Chief Executive given a mandate by all voters in Hong Kong and his degree of acceptance elevated, the strength of our society can be committed to economic and livelihood affairs. On the contrary, how can the economy and livelihood in Hong Kong move forward if the Government fails to break through the predicament in its administration amidst our ever-developing society? With democratization caught in a standstill and a lacerated society presenting no clue to heal, there will not be any relief for the relationship between the executive and the legislature either. Voting down the constitutional reform definitely will not make Hong Kong better. To solve the predicament in the governance of Hong Kong, we could not solely rely on the Chief Executive and the SAR Government but also the solidarity and pooled wisdom from all walks of life, such that there will be effective administration and harmony. Passing the package could also ease the political disputes in Hong Kong and lay a foundation for healing the wounds for society, which could mean as well a sound basis for further interaction between the Central Authorities and the pan-democrats in the future.
In the past political disputes, the radical camp seemed to have deliberately blotted out the constituent of “one country” in the principle of “one country, two systems” while emphasizing “two systems” only, as if they were cutting Hong Kong and China apart on purpose. But the fact is Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. We have the responsibility to implement universal suffrage in accordance with the Basic Law, as well as the obligation to uphold the sovereignty, security and development interests of our country. Taking the radical path might be helpful to politicians in attracting supporters, but it would not be of any help to us in discharging our constitutional duties. Conversely, only if there are interactions with all sides prepared to get together for discussions, there will definitely be much room for a package on universal suffrage.
President, all my family members were born in Hong Kong. We make Hong Kong our home and wish this place can get better and better. However, looking back at the development of Hong Kong over the past few years, we have obviously been overtaken by our surrounding regions, cities and countries. When all are dashing ahead in high gear, we are slowing down and even becoming stagnant because of disputes of all kinds. Hong Kong needs a stable political environment for the Government and the people to join hands and collaborate in the promotion of sustained economic development and for improvement in people’s livelihood. All of these also require co-operation from all walks of life in society to work on collective wisdom, so as to find a way out that fits Hong Kong best at this road fork of constitutional reform.
Before pressing the button, I hope everyone of us can think about this: The current constitutional reform package cannot be passed; Hong Kong is caught in a standstill in its progress towards democracy; our society is still in a state of internal attrition; the radical camp keeps resisting; “filibusters” and non-cooperation movements continue to emerge; the overall interests of Hong Kong and the well-being of the 7 million citizens will thus be set aside ― are these what Honourable Members would like to see? Each of the 70 Members present today has a vote in hand to decide whether there will be universal suffrage in Hong Kong in 2017. I support the constitutional reform package today because I hope Hong Kong can take a big step forward on the road to democracy, such that there could be election of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage two years later, followed by universal suffrage for the Legislative Council as soon as possible.
Hong Kong belongs not only to the 70 of us here but the 7 million citizens of the territory. As it is stipulated in the Basic Law that we have the opportunity to change the method for selecting the Chief Executive in 2017, would it be fair to our constituents if we give up at this juncture? Do we fall short of the expectation of the public on the Legislative Council? Can we not let our next generation down?
“Elect the Chief Executive by ‘one person, one vote'” ― a slogan chanted for 18 years in Hong Kong. I hope the pan-democratic Members can respect the wish of the public in the long-term interest of Hong Kong and vote with their conscience. Summon up the courage of politicians, vote in support of the motion and let Hong Kong advance in constitutional reform. Cast your votes to turn the aspiration that has been cried for for 18 years into reality. Use the votes in this Chamber to let all 5 million qualified voters in Hong Kong be like all Members of the Legislative Council to vote with the same ballots in the election of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage two years later.
President, the Hong Kong Football Team had a victory over the Maldivians by two goals to nil yesterday, which made all football fans very happy. We have no reason today to vote down the motion concerning the Chief Executive election of Hong Kong and make all the Hongkongers losers. Hong Kong has been making miracles over the past five or six decades. Although there is virtually no chance for the constitutional reform to be passed right now, I hope the pan-democratic Members can vote in the last minute in support of the constitutional reform package for the well-being and long-term development of Hong Kong, so as to let Hong Kong make another miracle.
With these remarks, I support the motion.