SCMP Letter to the Editor: Election task force must avoid exercise in window dressing

It is difficult to be excited about the chief executive’s recent announcement that a task force, made up of three of his most senior ministers, has been established to pave the way for beginning the long-awaited public consultation on arrangements for the 2016 Legislative Council elections and the election of the chief executive by universal suffrage in 2017.

Leung Chun-ying’s administration has become masterly at the art of setting up committees to examine issues, as opposed to proactively coming up with proposals to solve them. If this latest task force is not to degenerate into another piece of window dressing, it is essential that it produce concrete proposals that actually move the debate forward and help to forge the necessary consensus.

The initial signs are not encouraging. Head of the task force, Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, has already lowered expectations by stating that the initial consultation document is unlikely to include detailed proposals, as the government wants to keep an open mind on the various issues.

I take this to mean that, despite the wealth of views and ideas already circulating in the community, we are going to have to wait another two or three months for a paper that deals only in generalities and offers no inkling as to the government’s position on key issues, such as the phasing out of functional constituencies, the composition of the chief executive nominating committee and the nomination procedures it will adopt.

Mrs Lam has expressed the hope that people can be rational, pragmatic and tolerant, to narrow differences as far as possible. I hope so too.

However, the signs are that public patience with the current lack of government leadership on these vitally important issues is wearing thin. As it commences its work, the task force must understand that the time for platitudes and generalisations is over.

The forthcoming consultation document must focus on key issues and spell out the principles which the government intends to adopt in finalising the changes to be made for the 2016 Legco elections and the 2017 chief executive election.

Meanwhile, those of us who are actively engaged in promoting the cause of universal suffrage stand ready to work with Mrs Lam and her colleagues towards an outcome that measures up to internationally accepted standards and that the majority of Hong Kong people can accept.

Anson Chan Fang On-sang, convenor, Hong Kong 2020

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