Email this article
CE's "Letter to Hong Kong" (English only)

     Following is the "Letter to Hong Kong" by the Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, broadcast on Radio Television Hong Kong this morning (September 14):

Dear fellow Hong Kong people,

     Two weeks ago, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) adopted a Decision and confirmed that Hong Kong's Chief Executive could be elected by universal suffrage from 2017 onward.

     Before Hong Kong's return to China, all Governors were appointed by the British Government, without any participation by the Hong Kong people or, for that matter, the British people. In regard to selecting the Chief Executive, the Sino-British Joint Declaration states that the Chief Executive shall be selected by election or through consultations held locally. It goes on to state that the selected Chief Executive shall be appointed by the Central People's Government. The Joint Declaration definitely does not mention universal suffrage for the selection of the Chief Executive. Universal suffrage first appeared in the Basic Law which was promulgated by the National People's Congress in 1990, some five years after the signing of the Joint Declaration. It states, and I quote:

     "The method for selecting the Chief Executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures." End quote.

     Since 1997, Chief Executives have been elected by electoral colleges - it was called the Selection Committee in 1996 and, since then, the Election Committee. The size of the Committees has grown steadily - from 400 members in 1996 to 1,200 in 2012. Implementing universal suffrage for the selection of the Chief Executive will be a historic step in our democratic development. It is a hugely significant commitment for Hong Kong, for me as the serving Chief Executive and for our Country.

     The NPCSC's Decision states there shall be two or three candidates for the office of the Chief Executive. In other words, an uncontested election will not be allowed. So there will be competition - and we can expect keen competition - among Chief Executive candidates.

     There will be competition also among candidates who wish to join the Nominating Committee. While some, such as LegCo members are ipso facto Nominating Committee members, most will have to win their seats on the Committee in an election by their own constituents.

     Cynics say the NPCSC's Decision does not give Hong Kong "real democracy". They claim the Nominating Committee will "screen out" candidates from "the pan-democratic" camp.

     Let's look at the facts and let's not overlook two key provisions in the Basic Law:

     First, since its promulgation 24 years ago, the Basic Law has always stated that Chief Executive candidates are to be nominated by a Nominating Committee, before election by universal suffrage. So, there is no question the recent NPCSC's Decision adds any so-called "screening requirement" to the selection procedures; and

     Secondly, all successful candidates must be appointed by the Central People's Government before taking office. Substantive appointment by the Central People's Government is necessary as Hong Kong, unlike other local democracies, enjoys a high degree of autonomy as a result of additional powers delegated by the Central People's Government. The democratic process of selecting the Hong Kong SAR's Chief Executive cannot be compared to that of electing, say, a city mayor. If the Central People's Government wants to screen out any candidate, the power not to appoint has always been in the Basic Law.

     In addition, the composition of the Nominating Committee and the nomination procedures are yet to be discussed. These will be the issues of our next round of public consultation which, unfortunately, some LegCo members have already said they might boycott.

     I know the majority of Hong Kong people look forward to the day in 2017 when each and every one of our 5 million eligible voters can cast a vote in the Chief Executive election. But, I also know that we face a big challenge. The "pan-democratic" members of LegCo have said they would vote against this change. So, we are short of the two-thirds majority in LegCo required under the Basic Law to get us universal suffrage.

     For universal suffrage in 2017, the NPCSC is ready; the SAR Government and I are ready; Hong Kong people are ready. If the universal suffrage package is voted down by LegCo members who control just over one-third of votes, they will have a case to answer. Why do they think the present Chief Executive election by the Election Committee, with its 1,200 members, is more democratic than the universal suffrage election that is on offer? More importantly, why do they think rejecting the present offer will get Hong Kong a better offer in five years' time?

     An opinion poll by Lingnan University after the NPCSC's Decision found that nearly 60 per cent of those polled would vote in the 2017 Chief Executive election if held according to the NPCSC's Decision. Commenting on the results of this poll, some "pan-democratic" LegCo members said they would put principles before public opinion. I hope they will reconsider.

     The NPCSC's Decision does not rule out the possibility of further changes to the method for selecting the Chief Executive after 2017. Indeed, the Basic Law does not say that the method for selecting the Chief Executive can only be amended once.

     Constitutional reform is always controversial, and there is no shortage of different models. But the biggest and most important common ground among Hong Kong people is their right to elect the Chief Executive by universal suffrage as soon as the first opportunity arises. By "they", I include non-Chinese nationals who are permanent residents of Hong Kong. All permanent residents regardless of nationality or ethnicity have the right to register as a voter.

     By adopting universal suffrage in 2017 we will, for the first time, blend "one-person, one-vote" into the unique formula of "One Country, Two Systems", Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong and a high degree of autonomy. Such an outcome holds great promise, but only if we remain pragmatic. I hope all members of the community will study the NPCSC's Decision and the Basic Law for an accurate and complete understanding of the constitutional and political context in which we find ourselves. I hope we can all move forward.

     Politics is the art of the possible. Universal suffrage is now within reach. Hong Kong does not have to stand still. Constitutional reform should move forward, whatever the pace.

     The Government will soon start a new round of public consultation. Now we have a framework laid down by the NPCSC, we should thrash out the remaining details. I hope the good sense of Hong Kong people will prevail. I look forward to seeing you all at the polling stations to vote at the fifth-term Chief Executive election in 2017.

Ends/Sunday, September 14, 2014
Issued at HKT 09:00


Print this page