By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
HONG KONG, China– Thousands of people gathered outside Hong Kong’s Legislative Council to show support for pro-democracy lawmakers who resigned recently over “the slow pace of democrati[z]ation” in Hong Kong.
The five pro-democracy politicians who resigned were told by the head of Hong Kong’s Executive Council last week that their plan to push for a referendum on universal suffrage was unconstitutional.
Pro-Beijing media and Chinese authorities have also claimed that the referendum would be unconstitutional because it is not stipulated in the Hong Kong Basic Law agreed to between Chin and the United Kingdom before Hong Kong was returned to China.
This referendum was in response to the government’s proposal on electoral reforms, which pro-democracy parties opined did not sufficiently address the issue of direct representation.
Tanya Chan, one of the resignees, said she hopes the resignation will result in universal suffrage so that Hong Kong’s chief executive and legislators are elected and functional constituencies eliminated.
Pro-democracy proponents have criticized functional constituencies because they allow some voters to vote twice, first in a direct election and then again in functional constituencies.
A former British colony, Hong Kong currently directly elects only half of its 60 legislators and popular vote is not allowed for the chief executive position. Thus, some feel that despite Hong Kong’s efforts in fighting for democracy for the last two decades, one-person-one-vote is still far away.
Another lawmaker, Alan Leong Kah-kit, said in his resignation speech that the current voting system in unfair and should be changed to “protect human rights and the rule-of-law as well as provide for better governance and quality of life.”
Religious groups have also organized a forum on constitutional reform. Bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, Card Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, said, “I’m angry at the local government’s political reform proposal which offers neither progress nor any direction. It gives people no choice….”
A recent survey showed that 60% of Hong Kong residents support universal suffrage.
For more information, please see:
AsiaNews – Card Zen calls for referendum to decide Hong Kong’s democracy – 18 January 2010
Monsters & Critics – Top Hong Kong adviser warns against democracy referendum – 22 January 2010
Spero News – Five democratic lawmakers resign to allow ‘referendum’ on universal suffrage – 28 January 2010