Message from the Chairman
Will Hong Kong come up with the right answers? A roadmap for universal suffrage and a new positioning for Hong Kong’s democratic reform
by Alan LUNG Ka-lun, Chairman
Several questions relating to the current constitutional reform debate were raised in a public forum hosted by Alan Leong of the Civic Party on 19 December 2009. The first question was if there should be screening of the Chief Executive candidates. The answer is a simple "No" as it would destroy the legitimacy of the winner.
The second question raised by Alan Leong was whether there is a relationship between democracy and people's livelihood. This is a difficult question as one could easily argue that there is no direct relationship. What was practiced in Hong Kong under very experienced British administrators was "Meritocracy" - it was not "Democracy". A form of "Meritocracy" closer to "Rule by Elite" is also favoured in Singapore and in Mainland China. Whether the democrats in Hong Kong could argue convincingly that "Democracy" is the best way to bring "Meritocracy" back to Hong Kong is yet to be seen. While I would like to avoid this question now, it is probably fair to say that Hong Kong has lost the ability to change because of the deadlocks built into our current political systems. This is why it is a good time for Hong Kong to come up with the right answers now.
HKSARG's responsibility and why "Five District Resignation" sounds attractive
It is incredible, though not surprising that a proposal rejected in 2005 was brought back by the Government with only minor changes. While one side - the democrats -- are arguing for Universal Suffrage by 2012 and a Civic-LSD Coalition was formed to carry out the "Five District Resignation" scheme, the other side - the Pro-Government Camp -- is arguing for retention of the Functional Constituency seats and for "moving forward". In reality, the District Board (DB) Scheme as proposed by the HKSAR Government will benefit no one except the DAB(i), so many amongst the Pro-Government Camp may also find the DB Scheme difficult to accept.
The current administration, particularly Stephen Lam Sui-lung who has been involved in the task of constitutional reform since 1994, must shoulder some responsibility for allowing the "DB Scheme" to be proposed as the only scheme possible under the constraints set out the NPC Standing Committee on 29 December 2007. Unlike C.Y. Leung, who warned that the HKSAR Government must take note of the "…clear message" voters sent by returning "Long Hair" and two other members of League of Social Democrats (LSD) to Legco in 2008 (see CY Leung speech at HKDF luncheon on 24 September 2009), the current administration seems to be ignoring the "Political Helplessness" amongst the disenfranchised young professionals and young grass roots organsations. One way to look at it is as a kind of "Learnt Helplessness" such as is usually acquired from unreasonable parents who frustrate all healthy aspirations of their children or abuse them when they were young. In such a situation, it is far better for the frustrated ones to reject and rebel against the parents than to keep quiet and run the risk of getting a mental illness. This observation could explain why "Five District Resignation" sounds attractive to young professionals - supporters of the Civic Party and to young grass root groups - supporters of LSD.
Handling of the Functional Constituency (FC) seats in Legco
The more difficult issue to solve relates to the handling of the Functional Constituencies. Professor Tony Carty of the University of Hong Kong made four points at a HKDF speaker luncheon on 21 December 2009. Firstly, equal and universal suffrage on its own is an insufficient guarantee of a political system working in a truly democratic way. Secondly, that due to low elector turnout, in the UK and many other jurisdictions, governments could be elected by as little as 25% of the registered voters and therefore did not have strong mandates. His third point was that in the UK particularly, but elsewhere also, the commercial elite had succeeded in subverting the main political parties (Labour and Conservatives) so that their agendas took precedence over that of the people in general (Functional Constituencies without formally enshrining FCs in the system). Professor Carty's last point was that this "market imbalance" needed to be redressed, preferably by restoring the institutional protections against malign actions enjoyed by representative democracies, with strong parliaments, a free press, an autonomous civil service, powerful judiciaries. We agree with Professor Carty's viewpoint.
Against such complex background and conflicting views, a transition toward a "One-person-two votes Proposal" could be feasible. The FCs would be phased out, and Legco elections would comply with ICCPR and Basic Law's stipulation of "Equal and Universal Suffrage":
Our estimation is that the Pan-democrats could agree to 1) and 2) above provided the Government guaranteed the outcome for 2020. For the Pro-Government side, 1) above could be achievable. But 2) and 3) are likely to be more difficult for the Pro-Government Camp to accept.
So a more rational approach might be to suspend the discussion on ultimate fate of the FCs in 2020 and bring back the discussion on the "Bi-Cameral System" as proposed by Professor Carty, HKDF, Sir David Ackers-Jones of Business and Professionals Federation (BPF) at a later stage. Perhaps Hong Kong could come to an agreement on converting the "FCs" or "Sector Seats" into an upper house that has limited consultation power but will act more like a public policy think tank to check against short term thinking of the lower house or the executive branch. The upper house should be given the resource to do research, formulate policies and think of longer term strategic issues. This also provides a platform and incentives for social and business groups to work together. This is not utopia -- but a constitutional framework to connect the society to government.
A new positioning for Democracy in Hong Kong needed
According to Professor Carty, an international law expert, it is feasible for Hong Kong's sovereign power - China -- to clarify International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) for the territory of Hong Kong alone through the Standing committee of the National People's Congress (NPC-SC). To avoid confusion and suggestions that the rest of ICCPR is not already applied to Hong Kong, perhaps it is better for NPC-SC to clarify the position and reservation taken by the HKSARG: "... Article 25 (b) of the ICCPR is not applicable to the HKSAR"(ii).
Whether the HKSARG will accept this proposal and how this request could be made to NPC-SC is still unclear. But if the proposal to clarify ICCPR were accepted, it would reconfirm the Central Government's commitment to allow Hong Kong to implement true "Equal and Universal Suffrage" by 2020. It would also reconfirm the "One Country, Two Systems" concept and signal that Hong Kong is acting with full consideration of China's viewpoint. From this point onwards, the debate on Constitutional Reform could continue in a more informed and rational manner and Hong Kong could refocus on the important tasks of solving economic development and social issues. After all, the democratic moment in Hong Kong cannot continue to position itself along the outdated concept of "Democracy against Communist China". The Central Government and many people in the mainland will simply question Hong Kong's loyalty.
Since China is also going through rapid changes and will have no choice, but to look into democracy and a more representative form of government to solve many social conflicts and governance problem in its economic development. Perhaps the Mainland can borrow successful ideas from Hong Kong in future. Both Hong Kong and Mainland China will have much to gain if democrats in Hong Kong would position Hong Kong as a more advanced territory in China that is more ready than the Mainland for democracy - not a place that could subvert China.
"Democracy for China" is a much easier concept to sell to the Central Government than "Democracy against China".
梁家傑提出的第二個問題比較難答—「民主」與「民生」有沒有直接關係—因為其他人很容易認定兩者是沒有直接關係的。事實上在香港回歸祖國前所實行的並非「民主」政制，而是實施由很有經驗的英國官員管理下的「德政管治」(Meritocracy) 觀念。而中國内地和新加坡推崇的，是一個比較接近「精英管治」(Rule by Elite) 的「精英德治」觀念。民主派能否令人信服地說明「民主」是達到「德政管治」的最好的方法還有待觀察。現在我想迴避這個問題，但可以說，我們現行的政制僵局，已使香港失去了自我完善和自我改變的能力。這正是香港就現時的政改問題必須得到正確解决方法的主要原因之一。
如何處理功能組別，相信是最困難的問題。香港大學的人權及國際法專家卡蒂教授(Professor Tony Carty)曾提出四點(見2009年12月21日香港民主促進會午餐演講)。首先卡蒂教授提出，平等和普及選舉本身是不足以保證帶來一個真正民主的政治制度的。其次，由於選民投票率低，在英國和許多其他國家或地區，可以以低至25％的登記選民的支持、便選出及成立政府。因此，這些政府都沒有強而有力的人民授權。他的第三個觀點是，在英國(但在其他地方也有同樣情況)，商界精英往往都能成功地「顛覆」主要政黨（工黨和保守黨），使他們的商業目標和議程得到了優先處理，這就是説在沒有正式功能組別的政制中，「功能組別」的影響也在系統中運作。卡蒂教授的最後一點是，這些「失衡」是需要某種方式去糾正的。最好的方法是採取某些行動，例如建立具遠見而且強而有力的議會，以新聞自由、獨立的公務員隊伍、強大的司法機構等，對民主體制的原意進行保護和恢復，並打擊有意從代議政制中得到特權的人士和存有不良意圖的議程。我們同意卡蒂教授的觀點。