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NPC rules out universal suffrage for HK
By Gang Bian (China Daily HK Edition)
Updated: 2004-04-27 10:14

China's top legislature Monday ruled out direct elections for the Hong Kong chief executive in 2007 and legislators in 2008, citing immature conditions.

The voting result is shown on a big screen. [Xinhua]

"Universal suffrage shall not apply to the election of the third-term chief executive of the HKSAR in 2007, nor to the election of all members of the fourth-term Legislative Council (LegCo) of the HKSAR in 2008," noted the decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC).

However, the NPCSC favours modification of the existing electoral methods.

Specific methods for selecting the chief executive in 2007 and forming the Legislative Council in 2008 could be "appropriately modified" in the principle of "gradual and orderly progress" and in accordance with the Basic Law, it said.

The ruling was passed at Monday's meeting with 156 for, one abstention and no negative votes.

The NPCSC made the decision after concluding a two-day meeting to discuss Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's report on the need for electoral changes in Hong Kong.

The ruling "is in the overall and long-term interest of Hong Kong society and conducive to the maintenance of its long-term prosperity and stability," said Wu Bangguo, chairman of the NPCSC.

According to the decision, the half-by-half ratio for LegCo members from functional constituencies and from geographical constituencies - returned through direct elections - shall remain unchanged. The procedures for voting on bills and motions in the Legislative Council shall also remain unchanged.

In explaining its decision, the NPCSC noted that the democratic process in Hong Kong is not long. It has been no more than seven years since Hong Kong residents have exercised the democratic right of participating in selection of the chief executive.

Since Hong Kong's return to the motherland, the number of directly-elected LegCo members has increased remarkably. Half the members will be directly elected in the forthcoming LegCo election in September.

Yet the influence of the directly-elected LegCo members upon Hong Kong society, especially upon the executive-led mechanism, is yet to be tested, the decision said.

Moreover, various social circles in Hong Kong currently still have considerable differences about changes for the electoral methods, and no broad consensus has been reached yet.

Under such circumstances, conditions do not satisfy the general elections of the chief executive and all LegCo members, the decision said.

But the top legislature stressed that it is the consistent stance of the central authorities to develop democracy in Hong Kong based on the principle of gradual and orderly progress, in the light of the HKSAR's specific conditions, and in accordance with the Basic Law.

Deputy Secretary-General of the National People's Congress Standing Committee Qiao Xiaoyang (left) meets with people of Hong Kong and explain the decision by China's top legislative body. [newsphoto]

The final goal will be reached, as provided for by the Basic Law, that the chief executive and the LegCo will be elected through universal suffrage, the decision noted.

In a speech upon adoption of the ruling, Wu said that it demonstrates the great importance and concern that the central authorities attach to Hong Kong's constitutional development.

He stressed that the central authorities have been "very prudent" in handling the issue, noting that "every step taken has rigorously accorded with provisions and procedures stipulated by the law".

The People's Daily yesterday hailed the NPC decision in a commentary, saying it would put an end to disputes surrounding constitutional development, help to reach a consensus among Hong Kong society on electoral changes, and safeguard the overall interests and well-being of Hong Kong people.

"The NPC decision is an important legal document with legal validity. It must be implemented in real earnest," it said.

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