Li Gang (2nd right), deputy director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong, meets for the first time with Democratic Party leaders, including Chairman Albert Ho (2nd left), to discuss constitutional reform Monday at the liaison office headquarters. Provided to China Daily
Deputy Director Li supports plan to hold televised reform debate
Democratic Party (DP) chairman Albert Ho, vice chairman Emily Lau and party member Cheung Man-kwong met for the first time Monday with Li Gang, the deputy director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong to talk about political reform.
The historic meeting lasted for more than two hours at the liaison office headquarters.
After the meeting, both sides called separate media briefings about the meeting and the respective positions.
Li Gang stepped back into the political fray, urging the Democratic Party to furnish the votes needed to pass the reform measures proposed by the SAR government for elections in 2012.
Li said he respected and supported Chief Executive Donald Tsang's challenge to Civic Party leader Audrey Eu, to hold a televised debate on the reform proposals.
Li made his points at a press conference after meeting with the Democratic Party in what outsiders described as an "ice breaking trip".
The Democratic Party responded that there is still a broad gap between the party's minimum demand and what is contained in the packages. The most prickly issue cited by party spokesmen is the demand by the DP that the functional constituency be abolished. The party says its members will find it very difficult to support the reform package if the Central Government does not make concessions.
Commentator Johnny Lau, said he thought the meeting reflected the liaison office's determination to garner greater public support for the packages. However, the meeting does not mean the democrats necessarily will support the packages. He noted the pan-democratic camp will vote as a bloc.
At his press conference, Li praised the Democratic Party as willing to communicate while the Civic Party was unwilling to communicate and sought recourse to the "referendum" movement.
Constitutional development is a very important issue in Hong Kong and it is better to move forward than to stand still, he said. If the Democratic Party votes in favor of the packages, constitutional development in Hong Kong will move forward and nearer the 2017 and 2020 universal suffrage timetables.
On the future of the functional constituencies, Li noted that there are divided opinions in society and that the two sides are nowhere near a consensus. As the Hong Kong SAR Government is authorized to handle the 2012 arrangement only, he urged the Democratic Party to support the packages and discuss the future of the Functional Constituencies (FC) later on.
The Democratic Party called a contingency central committee meeting before the press conference.
Characterizing the meeting atmosphere as honest, party chairman Albert Ho said it was the party's first open meeting with Central Government officials.
At the meeting, Li urged DP members to support the packages. But they made it very clear that there remains a big gap between the packages and their demands and hoped Li would relay their messages to the highest level of the Central Government.
As to their stance, the party proposed scrapping the FC by 2020 regarding the Legislative Council election, and argued that for the 2017 Chief Executive election, the nomination threshold should not be higher than the 2007 threshold, and that all the elected district councilors should sit on the Election Committee.
It was also proposed that for 2012, the six district council FC seats shall be returned by one-man-one-vote after nomination by the elected District Council (DC) members. The 405 elected DC members shall form part of the Election Committee and the nomination threshold should remain 12.5 percent.
Members of the Alliance on Universal Suffrage also had a working meeting with liaison office representatives Monday to prepare for a formal meeting this week with a Central Government official who is reportedly Li Gang.
Richard Tsoi, deputy convener of the alliance, said they would reiterate their wish that the Central Government would guarantee the 2017 and 2020 elections are genuine universal suffrage and the functional constituency would be scrapped. They also want a permanent dialogue mechanism with the Central Government.
(HK Edition 05/25/2010 page1)