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Thursday, March 12, 2015, 09:08

Beijing reiterates commitment to universal suffrage

By Kahon Chan in Hong Kong
Beijing reiterates commitment to universal suffrage
A file photograph of Wang Guangya, director of the State Council’s HK and Macau Affairs Office taken on Dec 6, 2013. (Photo / CNS)

Wang Guangya, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office (HKMAO), reaffirmed the central government’s desire to see universal suffrage introduced in Hong Kong after meeting a political party on Wednesday.

A Liberal Party delegation heard Wang’s reassurances at a meeting held at the HKMAO office in Beijing on Wednesday morning, according to party Chairman Felix Chung Kwok-pan.

Wang, cited by Chung, stressed that the Beijing authorities still hoped Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) would pass the constitutional reform package before its summer break. But he did not elaborate on whether dialogue with the opposition camp would resume.

These comments came a day after Hong Kong government sources told media that Li Fei, deputy secretary-general of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC), would cancel a planned trip to Hong Kong in early April. This was after the opposition camp reiterated its tough stance.

All 27 opposition lawmakers signed a pledge on Monday, vowing to vote against any reform package conforming to the parameters outlined by the NPCSC last August. At least one member, however, told the media he had only participated to avoid “speculation”.

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, chief secretary for administration, described the move as “regrettable”. She also said it was “unnecessary”, as society wanted constitutional reform in Hong Kong to move forward.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Guangzhou on Wednesday, she said the central government was sincere about delivering an election by universal suffrage. Central government officials were “basically” positive about the idea of re-starting dialogue with opposition lawmakers, Lam added.

With three months remaining before lawmakers vote on the reforms, the chief secretary urged the opposition to show more willingness to talk. “It is a two-way street to have a dialogue. I hope ‘pan-democrat’ lawmakers take this step and show goodwill, so we can continue with our coordination efforts,” Lam said.

But Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, speaking at the sidelines of an event, said he was concerned little time remained before the vote. Yuen said many had been disappointed by the opposition stance. He urged lawmakers not to undermine further opportunities for dialogue.

In Beijing, Hong Kong NPC Deputy Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai reiterated that the August decision could not be overturned. The electoral method will only be revised should new circumstances arise in the future.

Fan said those who still believed the NPCSC decision could be rewritten were not living in the real world.
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