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Tuesday, January 20, 2015, 08:46

LegCo can make universal suffrage happen: CS

By Kahon Chan in Hong Kong

The Legislative Council (LegCo) has a constitutional obligation to move the electoral reform process forward, Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told opposition lawmakers on Monday.

Changes to the method for electing the Chief Executive in 2017 require endorsement by at least 47 legislators, out of 70. The opposition, controlling 27 seats, has faced growing pressure since it vowed to block any proposals drafted upon the Aug 31 decision of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC).

Lam, speaking at a LegCo panel meeting on Monday, described the following months as a moment for lawmakers to show courage for making hard choices. She noted that lawmakers play a critical part in the five-step constitutional process to write election rules.

Once the reform package is vetoed, Lam said it would become impossible to bring “one person, one vote” into the selection of the next Chief Executive. According to the top legislature’s decision, the next leader would again be chosen by the 1,200-member Election Committee.

While later administrations might initiate the five-step process again to change the setup for the election in 2022, Lam said there is no guarantee the country’s top legislature would make a different decision then — even if the circumstances were different.

She reiterated that the Basic Law has already prescribed the path for improving electoral methods. She remained confident that once progress is made, there can be no turning back. “As people have said, while there is no perfect democracy, it will only get better,” said Lam.

Opposition lawmakers, at the meeting, apparently were eager to foresee future plans if the current reform proposal is realized. But as options for latter elections are subject to circumstances and debate in future, the chief secretary said she was not in a position to predict what could be done next.

The government welcomes formal dialogue with the opposition camp. But Lam said constitutional requirements must be upheld to achieve reforms. “We will strictly adhere to the laws, but of course we also hope to make (universal suffrage) happen on time,” said Lam.

As responsible public officials, she said the overall interests of Hong Kong have always come first when the government reports the local situation to central government authorities. In spite of the uphill battle, Lam pledged her team was totally committed to making progress.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen also told the meeting that the reform package was not a bill. Therefore, the Chief Executive, according to the government’s legal advisers, would be unable to trigger a process that could eventually dissolve the LegCo.


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