SCMP Monday, January 1, 2001

HK not ready for full suffrage: party heads


The heads of two major political parties have questioned whether people are ready to have full universal suffrage by 2008.
Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong chairman Tsang Yok-sing and Liberal party chairman James Tien Pei-chun appeared to back away from a pledge they made a year ago on ATV's Newsline.
Speaking on the same programme last night, Mr Tsang, Mr Tien and Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming were asked if they still supported all 60 seats in Legco being returned by universal suffrage in 2008.
Last year, the three pledged their support. This year, although Mr Tsang said there was "no problem" for it to be implemented in 2008, he questioned whether people were prepared for it. "Do people in Hong Kong really want to see full democracy as early as possible? Because in that case, why don't people seem to show much enthusiasm in encouraging the growth of political parties? If they don't like the DP or DAB, why don't they set up their own parties?" Mr Tsang asked.
He said newly elected legislator Audrey Eu Yuet-mee had refused to join the Democrats or The Frontier, although both supported her in the by-election in Hong Kong Island last month.
Mr Tsang asked whether there were any fully democratic systems in the world that worked without the participation of strong political parties.
Mr Tien shared the views of Mr Tsang when challenged by presenter Frank Ching. "I think it is the people who are not ready, not the political parties."
Mr Lee said 2008 was the latest date for the introduction of full universal suffrage.
The three party heads were also asked whether they would support Tung Chee-hwa serving a second term as Chief Executive.
Mr Lee said: "I think we should change the law for the next Chief Executive to be democratically elected."
The second chief executive, whose term begins on July 1, 2002, will be chosen by the 800-member Election Committee that picked six Legislative Councillors in the poll in September. Mr Tung has refused to say whether he will stand again.
Mr Tsang refused to pledge support immediately. "I think this is a premature question. There's still a year to go." Mr Tien also said it was too early to give an opinion. "The election is in the summer of 2002. I'll tell you next time. Next year, I will be sitting here."
The three heavyweights also agreed the chief executive could be returned by universal suffrage in 2007. Mr Tsang said: "It's in the Basic Law . . . Of course [that's the ultimate goal]."
The Basic Law outlines election systems for Legco and the chief executive up until 2007. After that suffrage can be expanded under certain conditions.