06/18/2010, 00.00
HONG KONG – CHINA
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Donald Tsang (and China) loses TV debate on democracy

by James Wang
Respondents by a margin of 71 to 15 per cent back pro-democracy advocate. Proposed changes to Hong Kong’s election law are likely to go down in defeat. Beijing refuses to lay down a road map to full democracy for the special autonomous region.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang lost a televised debate with barrister and opposition leader Audrey Eu on government plans to change the city’s electoral system, polls showed. Pro-democracy activists view such plans as a step backward rather than as a step towards full democracy.

A survey by the South China Morning Post and Standard newspapers indicated that 71 per cent of respondents in two university surveys said Eu won the debate against 15 for Tsang. Another survey by the University of Hong Kong showed that 45 per cent of respondents were “more opposed” to the government’s proposals after the debate than before, whilst 20 per cent said they were more supportive.

Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) is to vote 23 June on the government’s proposal, which is certain to be defeated. The reform needs a two-third majority to pass and pro-democracy LegCo members hold 23 seats out of 60.

Instead of piecemeal reform, the latter want universal suffrage in both LegCo and Chief Executive elections. Currently, only half of the LegCo is elected directly by voters; the other half is picked by functional constituencies or the Chinese government. The chief executive is elected by an 800-member college mostly chosen by the mainland.

The new package would add ten new members to the LegCo (five directly elected, and five representing functional constituencies) and increase the Electoral College that picks the chief executive to 1,200 members.

In recent weeks, Beijing has voiced its support for the reforms and made veiled threats against pro-democracy politicians for undermining the path towards democracy.

In 2004, the Chinese government unilaterally decided that it would choose political reforms for Hong Kong. Universal suffrage for chief executive and LegCo would not occur before 2017.

This decision violates the principle of “One nation, two systems”, which enabled Hong Kong to return to the mainland. Under the original agreement, the people of the former British crown colony were guaranteed a wide degree of autonomy.

In order to accept the proposed package, pro-democracy parties want Beijing to lay down a precise road map for reforms, something the Chinese government refuses to do.

It must be noted that under British rule, Hong Kong was never granted full democracy.

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