25 March 1998

The Democratic Party Releases May Election Platform: Universal Suffrage, Rule of Law, Improved Livelihood Main Planks

This week the Democratic Party announced its election platform for the May 1998 Legislative Council elections. Party Chairman Martin Lee and Vice-chairmen Dr. Yeung Sum and Anthony Cheung presented the platform to the public and unveiled the party's election slogan: "fighting for democracy, improving livelihood -- your Democratic Party."

Top election priorities included pushing for full democracy, restoring watered down human rights protection laws such as the Bill of Rights, and measures to help Hong Kong citizens cope with the economic downturn caused by Asia's financial crisis. Although the electoral arrangements for May guarantee democrats a reduced number of seats, the party leaders pledged to stand for elections to give Hong Kong voters a chance to express their democratic aspirations.

Martin Lee commented:

"Our platform sets out the clear differences between our party and pro-Beijing parties. This month Hong Kong's Chief Executive C.H. Tung stated to international election observers that Hong Kong's democratic development could be put off for 10, 12 -- or even 15 years. We hope that on 24 May, the people of Hong Kong will vote for democrats and tell Mr. Tung through the ballot box that this is truly unacceptable."

English-language Platform summary and AP wire story follow:

The Democratic Party 1998 Legislative Council Election Platform

Who we are:

The Democratic Party is a local political party which is a party for all Hong Kong people. Dedicated to the affairs of Hong Kong and concerned about the future of China, members of the Democratic Party are working for democracy, progress and prosperity for Hong Kong and China.

What we stand for:

We believe Hong Kong's future depends on freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. We are proud that the people of Hong Kong support us in our efforts to advance these key principles and pledge to continue our fight to advance Hong Kong people's rights -- especially the right to have a say over our own future.

Join with us:

The Democratic Party welcomes all who share our beliefs to unite in building a better future for Hong Kong. Although the May 24 elections will take place under restrictive new rules passed by the appointed legislature, the Democratic Party is committed to participating in the elections and to giving Hong Kong people a voice and a choice in their government. We are confident that with Hong Kong people's support, we can continue to make a difference.

Main Points of our 1998 Legislative Council Election Platform:

1. Full Democratic Elections

Hong Kong needs full democratic elections to realise and fully implement the principle of "one country, two systems" and to assure Hong Kong people rule Hong Kong with the promised high degree of autonomy. The Chief Executive, legislature and other tiers of representative government must be directly elected according to the principle of "one person, one vote." The Democratic Party will continue to strive for and promote democratic reforms to render the executive and legislative branches accountable to Hong Kong people through democratic elections. The Democratic Party believes amendments to Hong Kong's constitution, the Basic Law, are essential to achieve full democracy and to ensure the continuation of liberty, human rights and the rule of law.

2. Protect Human Rights, Freedoms and the Rule of Law

Since the reunification with China, there has been a deterioration of basic rights protections in Hong Kong. Important civil rights laws, including the Bill of Rights, have been rolled back and there has been an undermining of the institutions essential to the protection of human rights. The laws passed by the appointed Provisional Legislature must be amended to restore legal protections for the key freedoms of speech, assembly and demonstration. The rule of law ensures an independent judiciary and predictable legal system which guarantee both Hong Kong's civil liberties and a level playing field for business. The Democratic Party will continue to fight to ensure and defend a legal system which will safeguard fundamental rights and the rule of law.

3. Housing and Home Ownership

Land is a scarce resource in Hong Kong and home-ownership is out of reach or a tremendous economic burden for too many Hong Kong residents. In light of current property prices, the Democratic Party calls for an increase in the supply of land in order to lower land prices, resources to speed up the redevelopment of older urban areas, the privatisation of public housing and building more public housing, Home Ownership Scheme flats and "Sandwich class" housing.

4. Labour and Unemployment

Hong Kong has undergone significant economic restructuring over the last decade. The closure of a number of major companies and the ongoing regional economic crisis has exacerbated the unemployment problem. To protect job opportunities for local work force, the Democratic Party opposes the importation of labour. New immigrants, mid-career workers and unemployed are an untapped resource and the Government should ensure there are re-training opportunities for these sectors in order to meet labour demand.

5. Economic Relief

The Democratic Party believes it is essential to ease the current economic burden, including the middle class. With the present high inflation and unemployment, fees and charges for public utilities and government services should be frozen, tax allowances increased and rates lowered.

6. Reform Social Security

The elderly of Hong Kong built our society, but many find present day existence and expenses difficult to cope with. The Government should increase the current amount of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance to assist the underprivileged in their basic needs. Also, the means test should be raised so our elderly will not be penalised for savings. Aside from providing assistance to the elderly and disadvantaged, their rights should also be protected and opportunities provided.

7. Equal Opportunities

The Democratic Party believes it is essential to eliminate all forms of discrimination, on the grounds of age, race, religious belief, political belief and parental status. Women and men should enjoy equal rights and opportunities, as should ethnic minorities, the elderly, the young and the disabled. Hong Kong is a modern society which should provide equal pay for equal work and protection under law from abuse and harassment.

8. Education Quality Improvement

Education is an investment in Hong Kong's future. The SAR government must greatly increase its current investment in education and look ahead to future education challenges, particularly in basic education and information technology. Primary school should operate on a whole-day basis. Tertiary education must be strengthened, and there should be increased funding for kindergarten education. Primary and secondary school teachers should be college graduates to improve the overall quality of education.

9. Environmental Protection

Hong Kong's development should be compatible with environmental principles, so as to reduce pollution and to improve the quality of life for the Hong Kong public. Noise and air pollution should be reduced in urban areas and sewage disposal, waste recovery and recycling schemes should be promoted. New pollution prevention schemes should be implemented and environmental study should be incorporated into basic education in order to increase environmental protection awareness.

10. Accelerate Competitiveness

We support the enhancement of Hong Kong's status as a versatile international centre of science, technology, education, culture and sports.

The Democratic Party wants to establish Hong Kong as a leading information centre, an "Information City," to build up a new educational and technological culture to sustain the economy of Hong Kong, create wealth and employment opportunities and maintain Hong Kong as the communication and transportation center of South East Asia. To reinforce and protect Hong Kong's role as an international information centre, the SAR must provide basic infrastructure and legal protection for the free flow of information.

11. Free and Fair Competition

The Democratic Party believes it is essential to end monopolies and make markets more transparent. Cartels hurt competitiveness and consumers equally. Hong Kong should enact a competition law, set up a competition council, and the Government should advocate and practice fair competition policy to minimize monopoly and monitor market activities to protect investors and consumer rights.

12. Promote Economic Development

Continued growth into the 21st Century will depend on sustained investment in human and physical infrastructure. To increase the competitiveness of Hong Kong, it will be important to increase personnel training and education. Long-term goals should include the promotion and development of commercial, financial, tourism, fishing and agricultural sectors, including entrepreneurial activity and mid and small-size enterprises.

Hong Kong Democrats Unveil Platform

(March 24, AAS)

HONG KONG (AP) - Hong Kong's biggest political party unveiled a platform Tuesday calling for more democracy, and said unfair rules for the upcoming election ensured it would win only 11 seats in the 60-member legislature.

"The system is so bent against us that we do not really expect to win too many seats," said Martin Lee, chairman of the Democratic Party.

The May 24 vote will produce the first elected legislature since China regained sovereignty over the former British colony on July 1, 1997. On that day, China disbanded an elected legislature in which the Democratic Party and its allies had a slim majority.

Unlikely to have been chosen to sit on a provisional legislature that filled the gap, the Democratic Party and most independent allies boycotted it.

China is worried that demands for democracy from Hong Kong could spread to mainland China, challenging the Communist Party's monopoly on power. It granted Hong Kong a high degree of self-rule when it took over, but strongly opposed democratic reforms introduced by the last colonial governor.

On May 24, 30 seats will be elected by professional and business circles that largely represent Hong Kong's elite. Ten will be elected by an election commission, composed of representatives of business, professional and governmental groups; 20 others will be chosen by voting from geographical districts.

Lee called the system "a farce."

"It is not a genuine election at all. Polls show Ninety-five percent of Hong Kong people don't even know what sort of elections we are going to have." The Democrats' platform calls for full democratic elections when a new legislature is chosen two years from now.

The Democrats also repeated their call for Hong Kong's leader, the chief executive, to be elected by direct vote in 2002. The current chief executive is Tung Chee-hwa, chosen by a China-approved committee of 400 people.

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