Thursday, December 12, 2013, 07:58
Political reform should proceed step by step, says Elsie Leung
By Kahon Chan in Hong Kong

Selecting the next Chief Executive (CE) by universal suffrage would be a huge leap forward for Hong Kong — and reforms should be made step by step, said Elsie Leung Oi-sie, vice-chairwoman of the HKSAR Basic Law Committee of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC).

The veteran politician told a radio program on Wednesday that any proposal for the 2017 CE Election must follow the Basic Law provisions and decisions by the NPCSC.

The Nominating Committee would lose its constitutional power if candidates were qualified by a petition to just a certain number of voters, she said. “Anything that doesn’t fit into the legal framework will certainly fail. So why discuss it?”

The NPCSC has decided that the Nominating Committee should be formed with reference to the electoral committee which chose the previous CEs. The purpose was to ensure a smooth reform process by using the well-oiled machine of past elections.

“Choosing the CE by one man one vote will be a substantial step forward,” Leung said. Citing the chaotic opening of Hong Kong’s new airport in 1998 as an example, she said: “Could we have still kept everything under control when a lot of changes were happening at once?”

Leung said that after major changes in 2017, electoral arrangements for future elections would not necessarily be stuck with a 2017 model. She urged political parties “with popular support” to accept some compromises in order to move forward.

“They should first go ahead with universal suffrage, even if the election method (is considered) a bit less than perfect. Election methods in many countries have evolved over years,” she said.

The former secretary for justice left that position in 2005 just before the reform package for the 2007 CE election and 2008 Legislative Council (LegCo) election was blocked at LegCo, primarily by the opposition camp.

While Beijing would play a crucial role, Leung said Hong Kong should reach a consensus first.

“Many people are asking what the central government is offering us. Whatever it offers, can we really deliver a result? We can’t blame the central government for its offer if we cannot reach a consensus (because) our political parties and our people are not united,” she said.

A week into the public consultation, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen told a forum on Wednesday things were going well. He said there had been attempts to “blend” different views about new proposals across the political spectrum.

Discussing Elsie Leung’s concerns about “too many changes”, Tam said he agreed that the implementation of universal suffrage was a big step forward. But he said “it wouldn’t be fair to comment” on whether major changes could lead to chaos.

“We need to be pragmatic. I can only answer that question following a scrutiny of a concrete proposal, from nomination to appointment, with all the details and aspects in view,” he said.

Tam reiterated that political support from the public and Beijing was essential in passing the reform package.