Five democratic lawmakers resign to allow ‘referendum’ on universal suffrage
by Annie Lam
Five LegCo members want to see full universal suffrage applied to the entire territory, something Beijing does not want to concede. Church backs decision to achieve “greater democracy”.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Thousands of residents gathered outside Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) last night to show their support for five pro-democracy lawmakers who resigned over “the slow pace of democratisation in the territory.”

Earlier in the day, the five lawmakers submitted their resignation letters, hoping that their move will lead to some sort of ‘referendum” on universal suffrage in 2012. Participants listened to lawmakers’ speeches, cheering them on. Their resignation will be effective as of tomorrow.

Chinese authorities and pro-Beijing newspapers have described the “referendum” as “unconstitutional” as it is not stipulated in the Hong Kong Basic Law.

All five lawmakers planned to deliver a resignation speech inside the legislative chamber, a move approved by the LegCo speaker, but were thwarted by 20 pro-establishment lawmakers who walked out, leaving the 60-member chamber without a quorum.

Although unable to make her speech in the LegCo, Tanya Chan said her resignation is designed to achieve universal suffrage so that the territory’s chief executive and legislators are elected and the existing functional constituencies are abolished.

Hong Kong has fought for democracy for 20 years, but the goal of one-person-one-vote is still far away. Currently, only half of the 60-member legislature is elected directly. The other half is elected by functional constituencies or appointed by the government.

In his resignation speech, Alan Leong Kah-kit, a resigning lawmaker from the Civic Party, said that the voting system was unfair and had to be changed in order to protect human rights and the rule-of-law as well as provide for better governance and quality of life.

Raymond Wong Yuk-man, a Protestant and the founding president of the League of Social Democrats, cited the Beatitudes and Jesus’ call for justice to explain his resignation.

He said that Hong Kong was "the best place to conduct a democratic election on Chinese soil so as to ensure that the public can exercise their democratic rights."

Two other members of his party, Albert Chan Wai-yip and Leung Kwok-hung, also resigned.

Jackie Hung Ling-yu, project officer for the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong, told AsiaNews that this kind of indirect referendum, the resignation of lawmakers and the subsequent by-elections are the means to fight for greater democracy.

The Commission will encourage local Catholics to vote in the by-elections and thus exercise their civic rights, she said.

Card Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, has also encouraged local residents to vote.

In recent surveys, 60 per cent of Hong Kong residents have expressed their support for universal suffrage.