SCMP Saturday, May 12, 2001

Sham of neutral CE should be 'shot down'


Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Michael Suen Ming-yeung introduced the Chief Executive Election Bill into the Legislative Council on March 14. Since Tung Chee-hwa's term of office will end in July 2002, the administration is eager to push the bill through Legco in order to prepare for the "election" early next year.
The passage of the bill and the selection of Mr Tung to serve a second term is a foregone conclusion. This is not because he has done a good job and commands wide public support. In fact, many Hong Kong people are deeply dissatisfied with his performance and do not want him serving another term.
But the Basic Law stipulates that in the selection of the Chief Executive, the wishes of Hong Kong people will not be taken into account. In December 1996, Mr Tung was chosen as the first SAR Chief Executive by a committee of 400 people handpicked by Beijing.
According to the Basic Law, the second Chief Executive will be chosen by a committee of 800 people, in turn selected by 170,000 Hong Kong people. Since the Chinese leaders have already indicated their preference for Mr Tung, this Election Committee will act accordingly. Such a farcical selection makes a mockery of Beijing's pledge to give the SAR "a high degree of autonomy".
The Basic Law also stipulates that changes to the method for selecting the Chief Executive can only be made after 2007, and then have to be endorsed by two-thirds of Legco and the Chief Executive. The final decision whether to accept such changes rests with the National People's Congress Standing Committee.
To some people, the "election" next year presents an opportunity to challenge Mr Tung's lacklustre record. The pro-democracy camp could also use the occasion to put forward its alternative platform for running the SAR.
It is The Frontier's position that our members will not take part in any election that is not held under universal and equal suffrage. However, I think we should seize the opportunity to highlight Mr Tung's dismal failure, as well as make our case on how we think Hong Kong should be governed.
In the selection of the first Chief Executive in 1996, there was a "contest" and Mr Tung won by defeating three other candidates. This time it is said Mr Tung would like to be chosen ipso facto, so as to avoid being challenged by other candidates to defend his record and to spell out clearly what he intends to do in the second term. However, for the sake of putting on a show, Beijing may not object to a friendly "race".
In a move to denigrate political parties and to accentuate Mr Tung's political neutrality, the bill proposes that members of political parties can only run as candidates in an individual capacity. If elected, the person is required to resign from his political party. Mr Suen said this was to ensure that the Chief Executive, when discharging his or her duties, took into account the overall interests of the SAR instead of one political party.
While admitting that political parties actively participated in Legco and District Council elections and the Government enlisted their support in policy making and implementation, Mr Suen insisted: "The Chief Executive must be independent of political parties so that political parties may develop gradually and orderly on a level playing field, so as to ensure pluralism in Hong Kong."
It is impossible for any political leader to govern a country without the support of a majority of the legislature. Mr Tung can command sufficient support in Legco, thanks to undemocratic methods for choosing legislators, without having to form an overt alliance with any political party. The administration continues to perpetrate the myth that the Chief Executive is above the ugly political fray and objectively represents the overall interests of the Hong Kong public.
Few Hong Kong people believe that. They are exasperated with Mr Tung because they believe he is under the thumb of Beijing and is constantly influenced by a handful of property tycoons. Arrogant nonsense about the Chief Executive's political neutrality must be shot down.
Emily Lau Wai-Hing is a legislator and member of The Frontier.