February 1999

  1. Democracy is an important value and institution of the human race. It is also an important mechanism to the protection and promotion of the rule of law and human rights.

  2. Democracy respects that human beings are equal and conform to the principle of equality before the law. It is a system in which citizens of a community may directly or indirectly participate in and influence public policy decision making which affects their interests, wellbeing, and daily life.

  3. Democracy is also important to the ensurance of a level play field for individuals and corporate bodies in a free market economy.

  4. The Basic Law commits Hong Kong to a gradual and orderly progress towards universal suffrage (Article 68). Yet, there are still important hurdles for its achievement.

  5. Without preparing ourselves for it, democracy may never come to Hong Kong. It is certainly unlikely to come without a concerted and well-planned campaign by those who support it. Although more than 50% of Hong Kong voters turned out for the last election, this passive majority will not be enough to bring democracy about.

  6. The ranks of those who strongly support democracy go well beyond those who are active in politics. They include human rights activists, because Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides that all citizens have the right to elect their representatives by universal and equal suffrage. They include many academics, journalists and lawyers.

  7. To build momentum for democracy it is necessary to develop a programme which brings together those who already support democracy and encourages others who are at present uncommitted to join the democracy movement.

  8. In order to overcome these difficulties Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor proposes to convene a constitutional convention on the future form of Hong Kong democracy, to be held in October 1999.

  9. The aims of such a convention will be (a) to consider the various options for a democratic structure of government for Hong Kong; (b) to decide strategy and time-table for its accomplishment; (c) to stimulate public interest in the subject; (d) to encourage and promote the democracy movement; (e) to set the agenda for future debate.

  10. Issues which the Convention should consider include:-

    (i) should the Chief Executive of Hong Kong be democratically elected, and if so when;
    (ii) alternatively should the leader of the largest party in the Legislative Council become the Chief Executive;
    (iii) if the leader of the largest party in the Legislative Council was not to be the Chief Executive what would the constitutional and practical relationship be between the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council;
    (iv) should Hong Kong have a Ministerial system of Government;
    (v) if so, should the Ministers be members of the Legislative Council;
    (vi) if not, how should they be appointed and on what criteria should they be chosen;
    (vii) should a democratically elected Legislative Council be elected by proportional representation, by the first past the post system or by a combination of the two systems;
    (viii) how to decide on the timing for the introduction of universal suffrage;
    (ix) what should the system of local government be for Hong Kong;
    (x) how to change the Basic Law to accommodate these changes.

  11. This list is far from exhaustive. It simply sets out some of the more obvious questions which arise if full democratic Government is to be introduced in Hong Kong. It will be apparent that each of the questions set out above is a substantial one which could probably be the subject of a convention on its own.

  12. All political parties in Hong Kong will be invited to attend the Convention, as well as academics, civic leaders and all those interested in promoting democracy in Hong Kong. We hope to have this conference in October 1999, and to have options for voters' choice in the year 2000 if the convention so decides.