29 September 1997

The Democratic Party Condemns Passage of "Rotten" Electoral Law; Pledges to Contest Elections to Give Public a Choice

Today Democratic Party Chairman Martin Lee lambasted the passage of an electoral law by the Provisional Legislature, the Beijing-appointed body which on July 1 ousted the popular democrats and their allies, the largest group in the pre-handover elected Legislative Council. He said it was "a shocking and brazen affront to the community," and stated that the actions of the appointed body categorically confirmed the urgent need for democracy in Hong Kong. The legislative elections will be held on May 24, 1998 according to the new rules passed on Sunday night.

Indeed, 11 of 60 members of the appointed legislature which considered the electoral bill actually lost in the 1991 and/or 1995 elections (for example, Martin Lee's seat in the Legislative Council is currently occupied by Choy So-yuk, whom he defeated in the 1995 elections with 75% of the vote). The new electoral rules dramatically reduce the franchise in the 30 functional constituency seats from over two million voters to under 200,000 and guarantee that democrats -- the group which perennially wins the largest number of popular votes -- will have the fewest seats in the legislature. The electoral law also brings in a hybrid of the "single-vote, multi-seat" system (to force popular democratic incumbents to stand against one another in five districts) and a "proportional representation list" system (which has been shown to confuse voters in Japan and Taiwan), to cut democrats' numbers even further.

Democratic Party Chairman Martin Lee commented:

"With the passage of this rotten bill, the Beijing-appointed Provisional Legislature has proven the need for democracy far better than democrats ever could. What we and our allies have been fighting for is a fair, open, honest and democratic system of government.

It should be no surprise that those who have lost elections in the past would rubber-stamp a bill which cuts the electorate and tilts the playing field in their favour. What no one expected was that appointed legislators would brazenly bend the rules even further to attempt to ensure even more pro-China seats. The Provisional Legislature has shown conclusively what you get when you do not have that system of checks and balances and elected representatives accountable to the people: audacious rule twisting and gerrymandering of an already bad electoral bill.

But no matter how the electoral laws are changed, one thing China's appointees cannot change is Hong Kong people's democratic aspirations and their support for the leaders who defend their rights and freedoms. We reiterate our pledge to contest the 1998 elections -- to give Hong Kong people the chance to show conclusively through the ballot box their disapproval of this electoral farce."

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