Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor

Alliance to Fight for Democracy in the Year 2000

In view of the gloomy prospect for democratization in Hong Kong, an alliance which aims at campaigning for direct elections at every level of government, including the Legislative Council election in 2000 and the election of the Chief Executive in 2002 has been formed. The group comprises of over twenty NGOs, including Human Rights Monitor, The Frontier, and The Hong Kong Christian Institute. They have called themselves "Democracy 2000".

One of the group's first activities was to respond to the government's declared intention to re-introduce appointed members into the District Councils. The Chief Executive, when challenged by Legislative Councillor of the Democratic Party about reviving the appointment system, responded that the government had not received any opposing opinions at all, that was his first time to learn of views opposing the appointment proposal. To make the government realize that this is not the real picture, "Democracy 2000" held three signature campaigns in the districts, gathering the voice of the people who are opposed to re-introducing the appointment system in the District Councils. The group has successfully obtained over 1000 signatures from the public, and submitted these to the government to make the opinions heard.

Besides the signature campaigns, representatives of "Democracy 2000" attended the meeting of the Legislative Council Bills Committee which discussed the District Councils Bill on 19 January. During the meeting, a spokesman of the Government said they had received 98 written opinions, out of which, 61% support re-introducing the appointment system while 39% opposed it. However, the 1000 opinions collected were ignored.

On 31 January, the group held a press conference and started another signature campaign, inviting well-known scholars, professionals, and politicians to sign a statement in which the signatories undertook not to accept any offer from the government to be appointed members of the District Councils, and at the same time, to appeal to others not to accept as well. Secondly, the statement supported the idea that members of the District Councils should be returned by direct elections. Thirdly, they urged the government to abolish the appointed members and ex-officio members in the District Councils. Professor Yash Ghai, Stephen Ng, Paul Harris, Chong Chan Yau and Sung Lap Kung, attended the ceremony and explained their reasons for opposing the appointment system. Professor Yash Ghai said that generally, under de-colonialization, Governments have tended to introduce democracy at the local government first. It's actually unusual for the SAR Government to roll back democracy at the local government level. Moreover, the act is inconsistent with the direction of democratization promised in the Basic Law.

Future activities of the group include a public procession on 7 February, from the Southorn Stadium in Wanchai to the Central Government Offices. The gathering will start at 3p.m., starting with speakers addressing a short meeting and followed by the procession. Puppets will be made and carried by the demonstrators, symbolising the appointed members who are controlled by the government's invisible hand.

The District Councils Bill is scheduled to have its third reading in the Legislative Council on 10 March. "Democracy 2000" plans to invite District Board members and Municipal Councils' members to attend a meeting to be held outside the Legislative Council Building, "to mourn for the suffocation of democracy".

The group is expected to make more efforts in order to fulfil their aim of achieving democratization in 2000.

1999 (c) Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor