A better solution to scrap 'referendum' farce on the way

Updated: 2011-07-05 07:01

By Bob Lee(HK Edition)

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I was delighted to learn that after meeting a group of pro-establishment and independent legislators on Monday, the government has decided to postpone the vote on its by-election proposal that was due to be held in the Legislative Council (Legco) next week.

Instead, it launched a two-month public consultation on the matter before it is tabled for a second reading.

Moreover, Chief Executive Donald Tsang reaffirmed that the government aims to complete the legislative process of plugging the loophole as a matter of principle during the remainder of his tenure. This comes on the back of strong public sentiment against the resignations of five lawmakers last year that triggered a much loathed "de facto referendum" and which wasted a lot of public money.

This swift and determined decision, announced by Chief Secretary Henry Tang late Monday evening, immediately drew overwhelming applause from all sectors of society.

Such a move is perfect illustration of the fact that the Hong Kong government is a pragmatic and people-oriented administration. It is ready and always willing to actively heed mainstream public opinion. And credit should also go to the DAB (Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong) for its capability to better feel the general public's pulse and to put forward constructive suggestions for the government's consideration.

I am not here to comment on the government's original and revised mechanism for filling Legco vacancies. After all, how legislators' vacant seats are to be filled is of secondary importance. What is fundamentally vital is that the legal loopholes which stem from the tricky resignation actions of some Legco members last year have to be plugged. I believe this is exactly the SAR government's intention in rolling out its proposal for a specially designed law aimed at stopping some lawmakers from engaging in wanton and unacceptable behavior for their own political benefit.

The lowest turnout ever for a Hong Kong election (17 percent) points to the fact that few voters give a "thumbs up" to the so-called "de facto referendum". We taxpayers in Hong Kong cannot step back helplessly and watch public money being wasted in vain. Therefore, the so-called "referendum in five geographical constituencies", and any political farces of this sort, have to be stopped.

Obviously, nobody can say that the government's proposal to plug the loophole is flawless, but we don't doubt its genuine desire to save taxpayers' money from being splashed about. The government is merely following mainstream opinion and responding to public demands. We also highly appreciate CE Donald Tsang's administration's attitude in heeding public sentiment and concerns by launching an open consultation period starting from July till September. It shows that the government is handling the matter carefully and considerately.

I am reasonably confident that after genuinely consulting all the relevant political parties and interested stakeholders without prerequisites - based on the collective wisdom of all Hong Kong citizens - our community will bridge the divide and forge a consensus. And that the government will be able to minimize any further controversies.

It is in the interests of Hong Kong's long-term stability and its residents' wellbeing to see that the government comes up with a better solution to solve the chaotic problems at the legislative chamber.

But whatever proposals that are put forward, whatever alterations are made, we can be sure that in order to kick rowdy elements out of the solemn chamber, and to maintain orderly procedures and social harmony as a whole, certain rules and regulations have to be voted into law.

The author is a staff writer.

(HK Edition 07/05/2011 page3)