Tycoon Zeman banks on a miracle to get electoral reform passed

Updated: 2015-06-18 08:26

By Joseph Li in Hong Kong(HK Edition)

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Entertainment tycoon Allan Zeman is making a last-minute appeal to opposition lawmakers to be reasonable and pass the electoral reform package which, he says, will benefit Hong Kong's future.

However, he admits there is little chance of the reform package being passed. Even comments by Wang Guangya, director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, during an interview published on Tuesday that relevant decisions by the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) are not "forever", have come too late for them to change their minds.

But Zeman is still hoping for a miracle. He says the opposition has backed themselves into a corner. If they veto, there is a possibility they will lose a lot of votes and seats in the 2016 Legislative Council election. They may then, subsequently, lose their power to veto.

The chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Group is a friend and donor of the opposition camp. In an exclusive interview with China Daily, Zemen says he has met them quite often recently. The tycoon said he tried to persuade them to vote for the reform because he believes electoral reform represents genuine progress and is much better than standing still.

Zeman says the opposition members talk sensibly in private, but refuse to pass reform after bundling tightly together. When talking to the media, they display a hard-line attitude, he noted.

They also think that because it is their supporters who voted them into the Legislative Council, they have a duty to them. Otherwise, they fear their supporters may vote for other candidates in future elections.

Zeman says the opposition camp covers a wide spectrum, comprising both moderate and radical people.

"Although some moderates believe in their hearts, they are willing to pass the bill, they need an assurance or a signal from top officials in Beijing that the current electoral arrangements are not final if the bill is passed so that they can have an 'excuse' to turn around," he explains.

"Some still thought Beijing would give concessions two days before the voting as happened in 2010. I explained to them that 2010 was about the LegCo election. This time, it is about the Chief Executive election. Beijing does not seem to be compromising at the last minute because this involves sovereignty and national security," Zeman says.

He says the opposition has also wasted a lot of opportunities for dialogue with Beijing. They wrangle over "public nomination" and deride the reform package "fake" universal suffrage.

Zeman, who holds Canadian nationality, is dismissive of comments by the opposition camp about so-called international standards. He says democratic countries like the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada all have their own systems. "It's not wrong to have a Nominating Committee but whether the committee should be more broad-based and the 50-percent nomination threshold should be lower are open to discussion. They always call it fake universal suffrage. I have asked them 'what is real?' but they have no answer," he says.

"There is a chance we will have a popular government to the public and take away the power from the 'pan-democrats' and the people will trust the government more," he adds.

Zeman says if the opposition vetoes the reform, the government will pause constitutional reform; it will focus instead on people's livelihoods and social issues.


(HK Edition 06/18/2015 page3)