The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government published a Green Paper on Constitutional Development to consult the public on the models, roadmap and timetable for electing the Chief Executive and for forming the Legislative Council (LegCo) by universal suffrage – the ultimate aim as provided under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.
Chief Executive Donald Tsang commented that the release of the document represented a significant milestone in Hong Kong's constitutional development.
"The Hong Kong community has been engaging in discussion on, and debated at different stages, the issue of constitutional development," said Mr. Tsang. "It is now time to identify for Hong Kong a set of solutions to allow constitutional development to progress in a clear direction towards further political maturity in a steady manner."
Unveiling the document at the LegCo, Chief Secretary for Administration, Henry Tang, said the paper had been prepared on the basis of the Commission on Strategic Development's discussions and those within the community in the past 20 months.
"All proposals received are covered by the Green Paper. At this stage, the HKSAR government has not formed any specific views on the way forward or ruled out any options," said Mr. Tang.
Regarding the models for electing the Chief Executive by universal suffrage, the document revealed the following three key issues to be considered: composition and size of the nominating committee, method of nomination, and method for selecting the Chief Executive by universal suffrage following nomination.
Chief Executive: Nominating Committee
On the composition and size of the nominating committee, the paper has categorized the relevant proposals as three types of options:
- forming the nominating committee by less than 800 members, which involves the proposal to form the nominating committee by 60 LegCo members;
- modeling the nominating committee on the existing Election Committee, with the size of the nominating committee set at 800 members; and
- modeling the nominating committee on the Election Committee, but with membership expanded to 1200-1600.
Regarding the nomination method, any option must comply with Article 45 of the Basic Law that Chief Executive candidates are nominated "by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures."
Chief Executive: Method of Nomination
The document presents the options relating to the method of nomination on the basis of the number of candidates available after nominations by the nominating committee. The three types of options are as follows:
- 10 candidates or more;
- eight candidates at most; and
- two to four candidates at most.
Chief Executive: One person, one vote
As for the method of universal suffrage after nomination, the community generally acknowledges that after the candidates' nomination, the Chief Executive should be elected by universal suffrage on the basis of "one person, one vote."
Regarding the model for implementing universal suffrage for the LegCo, the paper has offered three types of options:
- replacing existing functional constituency seats -- which are elected by various business, professional, social and other sectors of the community -- with district-based seats returned through direct election;
- retaining functional constituency seats, but changing the electoral method; and
- increasing the number of seats representing District Councils in LegCo, and having all LegCo seats be returned either through direct or indirect elections. District Councils are public bodies in Hong Kong for district administration.
The paper also covers the proposals relating to attaining universal suffrage for LegCo in phases, for example, there are suggestions that functional constituency seats can be abolished in three phases.
Chief Executive and Legislative Council: Roadmap and Timetable
Regarding the roadmap and timetable for implementing universal suffrage for the Chief Executive, the three types of options are:
- forming the nominating committee directly in 2012 to attain universal suffrage;
- going through a transitional phase and attaining universal suffrage in 2017; and
- going through a transitional phase and attaining universal suffrage after 2017.
Regarding the roadmap and timetable for implementing universal suffrage for LegCo, the three types of options are:
- attaining universal suffrage in one go in 2012;
- attaining universal suffrage in phases in 2016; and
- attaining universal suffrage in phases after 2016.
In the discussion of the roadmap and timetable for implementing universal suffrage, the document also addresses whether universal suffrage for the Chief Executive should precede that for LegCo, as some have proposed.
The Hong Kong government will conduct a three-month public consultation to garner people's views. In addition to welcoming written submissions, the government will actively seek – through meetings and public forums – the views of LegCo members, District Council members, individuals of different sectors and strata, including political parties and think-tanks, as well as district personalities.
After the consultation exercise, the government will summarize the views received and assess whether a mainstream view could be formed as the basis for taking forward the work to the next phase.
"We hope that the issue of universal suffrage can be resolved in a satisfactory manner, which would be conducive to the progressive development of Hong Kong's political environment," said Mr. Tang. "It is only through rational and pragmatic public discourse that we can forge consensus on the future constitutional development of Hong Kong."
The consultation will run until October 10, 2007.
Public Consultation on the Green Paper on Constitutional Development: http://www.cmab-gpcd.gov.hk/