香 港 人 權 監 察
香 港 上 環 孖 沙 街 二 十 號 金 德 樓 4 樓
HONG KONG HUMAN RIGHTS MONITOR
4/F Kam Tak Building, 20 Mercer Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
電話 Phone: (852) 2811-4488 傳真 Fax: (852) 2802-6012
電郵地址 Email: email@example.com 網址 Website: http://www.hkhrm.org.hk
For immediate release
Press contact: Mr. Law Yuk-Kai, Director (852) 2811 4488
PROGRESS AT ORWELLIAN SPEED
(Hong Kong: 27 April 2004) Article 68 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law
promises “gradual and orderly progress” in the method of forming the
Hong Kong Legislative Council, with the ultimate aim of the election of
all the members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage.
The announcement yesterday by the National People’s Congress in Beijing
that in the Hong Kong’s 2008 Legislative Council there would be no
increase in the proportion of directly elected seats breaks that
It also breaks the promise by the HKSAR Government that there would be
a genuine consultation about political reform and that Hong Kong
people’s views would be fully taken into account.
In 2000 the number of directly elected seats in the Legislative Council
was increased from 20 to 24 (out of a total of 60). This year,
under provisions in Annex 2 of the Basic Law, the number increases from
24 to 30.
Yesterday’s announcement halts any further move towards universal
suffrage. In ordinary language, progress, however slow, implies forward
movement. Standing still is not progress, except in the Orwellian world
of totalitarian double-speak.
Orwellian double-speak was much in evidence at yesterday’s forum in
Hong Kong’s International Trade Centre where representatives from
Beijing announced the decision. Questions from the floor were not
allowed, but pre-selected speakers were allowed to express their
support for the decision. One, former Solicitor-General Daniel Fung,
was reported as having said that the true spirit of democracy did not
require universal suffrage, but was concerned with the protection of
minorities. The conclusion which Mr Fung appeared to be drawing
was that Hong Kong’s functional constituencies (where doctors elect a
doctor, lawyers elect a lawyer, and property developers elect a
property developer etc.) was a form of protection of minorities and
should therefore continue indefinitely.
Hong Kong is alone in the world in maintaining functional
constituencies. They were used by Mussolini in Fascist Italy, and
by the City Council of the International Settlement in Shanghai.
The minorities they represent are, with a few exceptions, the
privileged minorities. They have nothing in common with constitutional
arrangements designed to safeguard minorities who are at risk of
oppression or persecution by a majority. They have been rightly
abolished elsewhere in the world because they prevent Government being
accountable to the people. In Hong Kong they have been extended
and made more pernicious by provisions allowing unregulated voting by
limited companies in many functional constituencies, and by restrictive
franchises which ensure, for example, that in the “transport functional
constituency” only owners of transport businesses can vote, and not
those who work in such businesses.
The minorities represented in the functional constituencies have their
legitimate interests and concerns adequately protected by the rule of
law and the right to vote. The special additional privileges they are
being given by the functional constituency system are a complete
negation of the letter and the spirit of democracy.
Another myth promoted by Beijing’s representatives yesterday was that
the functional constituencies were in some way equivalent to Britain’s
unelected House of Lords and therefore legitimate. However they
failed to mention that for the last 94 years the British House of Lords
has only had power to delay legislation approved by the popularly
elected House of Commons and not to block it. If a bill voted down in
the Lords is again passed by the Commons the Lords are required to pass
A degree of delay built into a democratic system provides time for
reflection and correction of hasty mistakes. This is why most
democracies have bicameral legislatures. This is something
fundamentally different from setting up a system where the will of
those popularly elected is permanently blocked. This system,
which Hong Kong has now, is a recipe for confrontation, instability,
paralysed government, and polarisation of society.
As well as breaking promises about progress and consultation,
yesterday’s decision clearly showed that Hong Kong is to be subjected
to the full Communist authoritarian tradition, in which those who do
not slavishly follow the Party line will be demonised as enemies,
bullied and treated with contempt.
Mr Qiao Xiaoyang in his speech was reported as saying that Beijing was
very concerned about Hong Kong politicians who were not
patriotic. This is more Orwellian double-speak. It means that
strong Chinese patriots such as Legislative Councillor Szeto Wah, who
are also strong democrats and so implacably opposed to Communism, will
never be allowed by Beijing to hold power in Hong Kong. It
therefore means that so long as Hong Kong people are inclined to elect
people like Mr Szeto, they will not be allowed to elect their chosen
representatives to govern them.
Some Beijing representatives have gone so far as to make the
paternalistic comment that Hong Kong people are not mature enough for
democracy. These representatives should appreciate the basic fact that
Beijing is not a parent and Hong Kong people are not children. Hong
Kong people are one of the most sophisticated and cosmopolitan
electorates in the world. They are best placed to decide what form of
Government is best for their city. Beijing is no more qualified to tell
Hong Kong what electoral system is best for it than to tell Hong Kong
how to prevent a SARS epidemic.
Human Rights Monitor believes that without democracy no other rights
are guaranteed; that the lack of democracy will inevitably lead to the
erosion of free speech and the rule of law; and that instead of being
an international city comparable to the most advanced in the world Hong
Kong will drift into being an authoritarian, corrupt and second-rate
city like many in Mainland China.
Human Rights Monitor calls on Hong Kong people and our friends and
well-wishers around the world to protest as strongly as possible at the
lack of democracy in Hong Kong, and to maintain that protest until
democracy is achieved.