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HK Legco vetoes motion to hold referendum
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-12-02 08:53

A motion attempt by Hong Kong legislators of the "pro-democracy" camp to require the government to hold a referendum on the implementation of universal suffrage for the election of the chief executive and formation of the legislature in 2007 and 2008 was voted down Monday at the Legislative Council (LegCo).

Of the 54 members attending a special meeting of the constitutional affairs panel of LegCo, 31 voted against the motion moved by Fernando Cheung while 20 voted for. Three members -- Chim Pui-chung, Joseph Lee and Tam Heung-man -- abstained. The panel comprises 58 members.

The vote was taken after Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Stephen Lam stressed to the legislators that the SAR did not have a legal basis to conduct a referendum of any kind. And society was divided on the question of having universal suffrage in 2007 and 2008.

Lam said no provision was made in the Basic Law and local legislation in respect of conducting a referendum in the SAR and, as a result, the authorities did not possess the power to use the data of 3.2 million registered voters for the purpose of a referendum.

Further to that, he added, the community was still short of a consensus over the question of local political reforms, especially on the question of having universal suffrage in 2007 and 2008.

"While it is a fact that 62 per cent of voters voted for the 'pro-democracy' camp in the LegCo election, about 40 per cent also voted for other parties with a stance different from the pan-democrats," Lam said.

"We cannot say there is a consensus in the SAR," Lam said, replying to Lee Cheuk-yan who asserted that the LegCo election results were a testimony of a consensus on the question of political reforms.

Lam said the government would not consider any unconstitutional proposals that would run against the Basic Law and the NPCSC ruling.

Since Hong Kong is not a sovereign state, it was bound to liaise with the central government on its constitutional development, he said.

Legislator and Liberal Party Chairman James Tien disagreed with the claims of "democrats" that there was already a consensus in society.

Independent legislator Chim Pui-chung called on his council colleagues not to waste time and energy on an issue that was bound to achieve nothing. Instead, Chim said, legislators should focus more on local concerns such as the West Kowloon Project.

In a related development ahead of the meeting, Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong, Yang Wenchang, said a referendum was a serious issue and no decision on it could be taken lightly.

Yang said it was necessary for Hong Kong, especially politicians such as legislative councillors, to stay cool. He said they should act responsibly in the interest of the people.

Earlier this month, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa slammed the motion attempt, saying it would "seriously" undermine community harmony and damage the SAR's cordial ties with the central government.

Tung's remarks were backed by Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong Gao Siren, who warned that the referendum, as proposed, amounted to a challenge to the country's constitutional setup and contravened the SAR's legal status.

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