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Tuesday, April 21, 2015, 08:54

Vice-President Li: Seize historic opportunity

By  Kahon Chan in Hong Kong

Vice-President Li Yuanchao expressed the sincere hope of the central government that the people of Hong Kong would seize the historic opportunity to choose the Chief Executive by universal suffrage in 2017.

The central government leader made his remarks on Monday during a meeting with the New Territories Association of Societies’ delegation. Li said 2015 was a critical year for both the country and the special administrative region (SAR).

“I’d like to take this opportunity to emphasize that it is the central government’s sincere hope to implement the election of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage in 2017, which is also the common wish of most residents of Hong Kong,” he told a meeting, also attended by journalists.

Acknowledging that the Legislative Council would soon deliberate on the government’s electoral reform package, Li appealed to Hong Kong to respect the law and adopt a pragmatic attitude, saying that this was necessary in order to take a “historic step” toward implementing universal suffrage.

According to Starry Lee Wai-king, an adviser to the association, the vice-president agreed to consider a meeting between the central government and lawmakers in Hong Kong.

Members of the delegation were also told to spare no efforts in securing passage of the reform package. One way to pressure lawmakers, Lee quoted Li as saying, was to encourage greater public support for the government’s reforms.

Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will present the proposal to the legislature this Wednesday. The government and opposition will run campaigns in the coming weeks to garner public support ahead of the vote.

Earlier on Monday, Wang Guangya, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, also told the delegation that the central government leadership was confident of getting the reform package through legislature.

Brave Chan Yung, the association’s chairman, cited Wang saying that it was the central government’s solemn pledge to deliver the election by universal suffrage in 2017. But the Beijing authorities would not compromise on matters of principle.

Public backing for reform is rising. The Hong Kong Island Federation, in a survey of 3,034 respondents between April 2 and 15, found 67 percent of people agreed the election setup should conform to parameters outlined by the Basic Law and the Aug 31, 2014 decision by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC).

Some 68 percent of respondents wanted lawmakers to vote for the reform and 60 percent felt those who vetoed the reform would face the consequences of their decision to veto. Less than 30 percent believed that if election reform were to be delayed, it could be restarted within 10 years.

Support in the business community is more overwhelming — 95 percent of members of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce and the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong want lawmakers to pass the reform if there is majority support in the community.

kahon@chinadailyhk.com
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