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Friday, July 22, 2016, 00:35

LegCo head: Next CE should try to reopen constitutional reform

By Joseph Li

HONG KONG - An important task for the next Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR should be seeking to reopen the constitutional reform as soon as possible, says Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, the outgoing president of the Legislative Council.

In his opinion, constitutional reform with regard to the election of the Chief Executive and the forming of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage is of very great importance.

The next CE should treat this as the top priority of his policy agenda and forge a consensus in society as soon as possible. If these issues are not settled, they will affect effective governance, while “One Country, Two Systems” cannot move forward smoothly, Tsang said.

He said in the first place that election of the CE and the forming of LegCo by universal suffrage is written as the ultimate goal in the Basic Law, and hence the CE of the new-term government, whoever he or she is, should create opportunities to reopen the constitutional reform.

He agrees that the CE who is returned by more than 3 million voters through universal suffrage will have a very strong mandate from the people to deliver his policy objectives – yet that cannot solve every problem.

“At present, there are many governance problems that must be resolved one by one. They include executive-legislative relations, an executive-led government, party politics, as well as the election methods of the CE and the LegCo,” he explained.

“Many people point out that the existing electoral method of LegCo results in fragmentation and the rise of small political parties, and so it must be amended. However, if the CE is not returned by universal suffrage, nobody is interested in talking about the other issues because election of the CE by universal suffrage is the most important, controversial core issue.

“To put it straight, universal suffrage for the CE election has a great bearing on party politics and executive-legislative relations. If the fundamental issue is not properly handled, it will be meaningless to talk about other issues. The next CE and principal officials should therefore try their very best to pass the constitutional reform and not let it stand still again.”

On Aug 31, 2014, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress handed down a constitutional framework that governs future CE elections. While the “pan-democrats” strongly opposed it and insisted on public nomination, it is impossible to have the framework amended or have the nomination threshold lowered before it is implemented.

In responding, Tsang said: “This is a test of the intelligence of Beijing officials. If the central government wants to carry out constitutional reform in Hong Kong and the ‘pan-democrats’ also want it, they will surely find a way and come to terms,” adding that another standstill is no good to anybody.

Tsang admits that this year’s LegCo election is very crucial because the consent of two-thirds of LegCo is required to pass the constitutional reform.

“It is of course not easy but it depends on the content of the reform package. Like any place in the world, constitutional reform is very important and cannot be passed simply by a simple majority,” he said.

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