Veto Looks Likely for Hong Kong Electoral Reform Package

By Li Yi and Lin Yi
March 11, 2015 Updated: March 13, 2015

HONG KONG—Pan-democrats in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) have said they will veto a Beijing reform package that would restrict Hongkongers’ universal suffrage for the 2017 Chief Executive election.

Pan-democrats make up 40 percent of the LegCo, and the package would have to be passed in the LegCo with a two-thirds majority before it could be submitted to Beijing for approval.

The National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) decided last Aug. 31 that Hongkongers can elect their Chief Executive in 2017 as long as a Beijing-controlled committee nominates all the candidates. Recent comments from Beijing officials show that they still support this decision.

Zhang Dejiang, NPCSC chairman and director of Hong Kong and Macao Affairs, attended the joint meeting of Hong Kong and Macao on March 4 during the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Several CPPCC members from Hong Kong quoted Zhang’s remarks after the meeting.

CPPCC Standing Committee member Peter Woo Kwong-ching reported that Zhang said the Aug. 31 resolution was the constitutional basis for electing the Chief Executive.

“He reaffirmed that the 8.31 resolution is about the decision right of the central government over the election of the chief executive, which must have its own constitutional basis,” Woo said.

Chan Wing Kee, a member of the CPPCC Standing Committee, quoted Zhang Dejiang as saying that the electoral reform package had entered the final stage, and “the key is whether the Legislative Council can pass the general suffrage bill proposed by the Hong Kong SAR Government.”

NPC Law Committee chairman Qiao Xiaoyang commented on the pan-democracy camp’s declaration to veto the bill, which is based on the Aug. 31 resolution.

Qiao emphasized that the resolution could not be modified. When asked whether there is any chance of compromise when facing judicial review, Qiao said there is “no space at all.”

NPCSC Deputy Secretary-General Li Fei, who is responsible for explaining the NPCSC’s resolution, also said that the resolution could not be modified. However, China Vice Chair Li Yuanchao, who is also in charge of Hong Kong and Macao Affairs, would not comment on the issue.

Violates Constitution

As a senior journalist who is familiar with Chinese affairs, Ching Cheong believes that the Beijing officials’ comments show the strained relationship between Beijing and Hong Kong.

“If Beijing insists on implementing the 8.31 resolution, which itself violates the constitution, I think the only choice for Hong Kong is to veto it,” Ching said.

He said that the resolution was in accordance with the White Paper published by Beijing last June, but the first paragraph of the White Paper is unconstitutional.

“According to the Basic Law, Hong Kong clearly has three types of power: executive, judicial and legislative power. But in the White Paper, three powers are abridged to two; the executive power is missing. So this is completely unconstitutional,” Ching said.

Zhang Dejiang had asked the Hong Kong people to “accurately understand the Basic Law.” Ching Cheong countered that Beijing must comply with the Basic Law first.

“Who does not act in accordance with the law?” Ching asked. “Since Beijing has quietly revised the Basic Law and the Joint Statements between China and the United Kingdom, there is no reason for Hong Kong people to do anything in accordance with the unconstitutional 8.31 resolution.”

Rejection Likely

According to Ching Cheong’s analysis, the current situation indicates that the electoral reform package certainly will not be passed in the LegCo. If the reform package is rejected, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying will have to step down, Ching said.

Because I remember there is a clause in the Basic Law that if an important government bill is rejected, the Chief Executive will be impeached;
— Ching Cheong

“If the impeachment is passed, then the Chief Executive may have to resign. If the 8.31 resolution is not passed, Leung Chun-ying should be the first to resign,” Ching said.

He added that Zhang Dejiang, who is behind the resolution, also needs to take responsibility for this. “A resolution from the highest level of a central government was rejected due to its improper nature; where is the face [good reputation] of the central government? So if this happens, Zhang Dejiang must resign.”

Hong Kong’s pan-democracy camp, academic communities, and social organizations have continued to express their opposition to the Aug. 31 framework and to reject the false universal suffrage.

During a press conference on March 4, former Chief Secretary for Administration Anson Chan said the Aug. 31 resolution had fundamentally destroyed the Hong Kong people’s universal suffrage for the election of the Chief Executive and the election of the 2020 Legislative Council.

She also strongly condemned the report submitted by Leung Chun-ying to the NPCSC, which aims to pave the way for the Aug. 31 resolution.

“Even worse, the government has promised to put forward different proposals during the second public consultation on Jan. 15 this year, to reform the Nominating Committee and the nomination process, and now eventually it all falls in vain.”

Yvonne Leung, former Standing Committee member of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, recently proposed a judicial review, saying that the role of the NPCSC should only be limited to confirming the electoral reform proposals submitted by the Hong Kong government, and there is no legal binding power in its three limitations.

She asked the court to overthrow the government’s decision on electoral reform consultation and to give instructions on future electoral reform.

During a radio interview she said that there is sufficient justification for the court interference, and the court has the responsibility to point out whether or not the Aug. 31 resolution has any legal, binding rights over Hong Kong.

Ching believes her suggestion is great. “It causes all Hong Kong people, and people around the world concerned about Hong Kong, to notice the flawed parts of the 8.31 resolution.”

Translated by Susan Wang. Written in English by Sally Appert