Hong Kong 2020 Position Paper
28 November 2013
Hong Kong 2020 was launched on 24 April 2013 to provide a platform for soliciting views on how, as a community, Hong Kong people can work towards consensus on the constitutional changes necessary to achieve full universal suffrage for election of the Chief Executive (CE) in 2017 and all members of the Legislative Council (LegCo) by 2020.
Over the past six months we have met with several dozen groups and individuals including senior government officials, major political parties, members of LegCo functional constituencies (FCs), representatives of chambers of commerce, the diplomatic corps and academia, as well as more informal business and professional groupings.
In addition, we have monitored closely the proposals for constitutional reform put forward by other groups and individuals, as well as views and commentary expressed in the press and in the broadcast and on-line media. We have used social media and our website to engage with young people, including posting daily news clips on political reform and providing answers to frequently asked questions on constitutional issues. To-date our website has received over 20,000 views.
On 17 October the Chief Executive announced the formation of a task force, chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration, with the role of preparing for the public consultation on constitutional development. He stated that the group’s target is to launch the public consultation on electoral arrangements for the 2017 CE Election and the 2016 LegCo Election by the end of this year.
Prior to the publication of the Government’s consultation paper we would like to share, with the public:
- A summary of feedback from our consultation so far;
- The principles we believe should guide the Government’s forthcoming consultation process; and
- Our assessment of the key issues that need to be resolved.
Feedback from the consultation
While some groups we met did not feel ready to share specific ideas at this stage, we are grateful to all who have spared time to meet with us and express their views candidly and sincerely.
Our discussions have elicited widespread agreement on the following points:
- The Administration must provide firm and effective leadership to the process of building consensus on the way forward to achieve full universal suffrage.
- All constitutional change must be consistent with the terms of the Basic Law.
- The role of political parties must be strengthened to improve governance and identify and groom future political leaders.
- Voters must have a genuine choice of candidates for election to the post of CE, including one or more candidates from the pan-democratic camp.
- The upcoming consultation exercise must lead to substantive progress towards achievement of full universal suffrage. Standing still is not an option.
- Dismay at the delay in commencing public consultation and the possible impact of this delay on the ability to complete all necessary steps, including enactment of legislative changes, in time for the next LegCo elections in 2016.
As expected, feedback was diverse on the issue of the future of the functional constituency (FC) system of election to LegCo:
- Some groups/individuals continue to see FCs as an important means of achieving ‘balanced representation’ in LegCo and offsetting their perceived threat that full universal suffrage may create a ‘tyranny of the majority’.
- At the most conservative end of the spectrum of opinion were some who consider that FCs should remain a component of the electoral system indefinitely; others consider change should be very gradual and not necessarily tailored towards complete abolition by 2020.
- Equally strong views were expressed in favour of the complete abolition of FCs no later than 2020; some groups want to see substantive reform in the context of the 2016 LegCo elections, including a reduction in the number of FCs and/or an increase in the number of directly elected seats, plus the abolition of ‘split voting’.
- There is broad based support for expansion of FC electorates in 2016 by, for example, replacing corporate by individual votes; however, some who favour complete abolition of FCs, no later than 2020, expressed concern that measures to make FCs more representative might serve to entrench them further.
- Little enthusiasm was expressed for more radical interim changes to FCs in 2016 (such as grouping some FCs together to make them more widely representative) especially among those whose primary goal is the complete abolition of FCs in 2020.
As regards election of the CE by universal suffrage in 2017:
- Most of those who expressed a specific opinion, saw no particular problem in principle with modelling the future CE Nominating Committee (NC) on the previous CE Election Committee, but felt strongly that changes must be made to the structure and composition of the Committee to fulfill the Basic Law requirement that it be ‘broadly representative’.
- Some respondents considered that the concept of civil nomination of potential CE candidates was impractical and not in conformity with the Basic Law. Others argued that it is the only way in which to make the nomination process genuinely democratic and free from the possibility of political manipulation.
Guiding Principles for the Consultation Process
Hong Kong 2020 considers that the forthcoming government consultation document should embody the following clear statements of principle:
- An unequivocal commitment to implementation of a model of universal suffrage in Hong Kong that accords with the provisions in Articles 26, 45 and 68 of the Basic Law and reflects the fundamental principle contained in Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, that
“Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity ….. without unreasonable restrictions ….to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors…”
- Acceptance that, in practice, universal suffrage means that each vote has roughly equal weight and that no sector of the community should be able to wield a disproportionate influence on the selection of our CE, on the shaping of government policies and on the workings of LegCo.
- Acceptance that the right to be elected includes a guarantee that there should be no unreasonable qualifying conditions, or restrictions, on nomination for the election of the CE.
- Endorsement of the role of political parties in ensuring that the voices of all sectors of the community are heard and in bringing about a more stable and effective system of governance in which future political leaders can be groomed and supported.
The Government must demonstrate leadership in the process of putting forward proposals on issues where there are sharp divisions within the community and work to secure the necessary two-thirds support of LegCo members and the approval of the Central Government.
Key Issues to be Resolved
Hong Kong 2020 considers that the forthcoming government consultation document should address directly the following key issues:
LegCo Elections in 2016
Given that FCs are not consistent with internationally accepted concepts of universal suffrage, the forthcoming consultation paper should therefore discuss:
- The proposed strategy for phasing out FCs in 2020.
- What substantive steps should be taken in 2016 to pave the way for complete abolition in 2020, including the pros and cons of the various options that have been put forward for making them more representative e.g. by replacing corporate by individual votes, by including currently unrepresented groups and/or by grouping some FCs together to enhance their representativeness.
- Abandonment of the 50:50 ratio of directly elected geographical constituency (GC) seats to FC seats in 2016 – by increasing the number of GC seats, reducing the number of FC seats, or both – plus abolition of the split voting system.
- The future of the so-called super seats.
CE Election in 2017
Accepting that the Basic Law requires that candidates for the post of CE must be put forward by a Nominating Committee (NC), Hong Kong 2020 considers that the forthcoming government consultation document should address directly the following key issues:
- How the future Nominating Committee (NC) should be formed.
- How to ensure the NC is truly ‘broadly representative’ of the Hong Kong community and not (as in the case of past Chief Executive Election Committees) overly dominated by representatives of business and professional elites and other traditionally conservative sectors of the community.
- The principles by which the number of seats to be allocated to different sectors and sub-sectors will be determined, to ensure that all sectors of the community are fairly represented.
- The need to add more seats to include sectors of the population that are currently not represented e.g. students, civil servants, ethnic minorities, retirees.
- Whether the NC will be allowed to draw up, on its own, the ‘democratic procedures’ by which prospective candidates will be identified and nominated, or whether these will be subject to government approval and legislative enactment.
- How the electorates of those sub-sectors that are currently modelled on LegCo FCs will be reformed to make them more representative e.g. by replacing corporate by individual votes.
- Potential modalities for nomination of CE candidates e.g. by political parties, by a form of civil nomination, by obtaining a minimum threshold level of support from individual NC members (10-12.5%), or by a combination of all or any of the three methods.
- Discussion of whether the prohibition on the CE being a member of a political party should be withdrawn and what practical measures should be taken to support the strengthening of the role of political parties, such as legal recognition of their role and status and Government funding support for parties that achieve a certain percentage of the popular vote.
- Whether there should be a cap on the number of NC member nominations any one candidate can receive, in order to ensure that voters have a genuine choice and that the future CE can thus have a genuine electoral mandate to govern.
The above issues are complex and there remain diverse views within the community as to the best way of resolving them to achieve full universal suffrage for election of the CE in 2017 and all members of LegCo by 2020. It is therefore essential that the forthcoming consultation exercise is genuine, open and transparent.
The Administration must provide firm and effective leadership; it must allow adequate time for public discussion of options and for negotiation between parties with differing views; it must not end up presenting Hong Kong people with a package on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis. As time is now short, it is crucial that the forthcoming consultation paper contain a specific timetable for completion of all the steps necessary to implement changes to the composition of LegCo in 2016 and establishment of the procedures for election of the CE in 2017.
Hong Kong 2020