31 July 1997

The Democratic Party Holds Meeting with Chief Executive C.H. Tung; Assessment of HKSAR at the One Month Mark

One month since the advent of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Democratic Party Chairman Martin Lee and seven ousted legislators met Chief Executive C.H. Tung. The meeting -- lasting over an hour and a half -- covered a range of issues including the Party's opposition to the electoral arrangements for the May 1998 legislative elections, as well as concerns about the Provisional Legislative Council (PLC), the importation of labour and other livelihood issues.

The meeting, the latest in a series of regular appointments with the Chief Executive, was the first since the handover and included Martin Lee, Vice-chairman Dr. Anthony Cheung, and core party members including Albert Chan, Andrew Cheng, Michael Ho, Fred Li, Lee Wing Tat and Tsang Kin Shing. The Party first made a point of commending Mr. Tung for the SAR's maintenance thus far of key liberties such as press freedom and the right to demonstrate, although the government had changed the laws to unnecessarily restrict these freedoms. But the Party noted that the month had seen several devastating setbacks for the rule of law and representative government.

1998 Elections

Martin Lee told Mr. Tung that the Democratic Party was shocked and disappointed both at the SAR Government's proposals for the 1998 elections and at the 9-day so-called consultation period, which Mr. Lee described as "the shortest consultation in the history of Hong Kong." The members told Mr. Tung that the use of the "largest reminder" list proportional representation voting system in the 20 seats which are open to democratic election is targeted at democrats and that the use of such a system would sever voter accountability and hamper the monitoring function of the legislature.

In addition, the proposals for the nine new functional constituency were a striking retrograde step, as the electorate in these seats will be reduced from more than 2 million to fewer than 20,000 voters. The Party said that the return to corporate voting ("one company, one vote") would entrench elitist business interests and leave the general public with no voice. Martin Lee pointed out to the Chief Executive that under his proposals, Mr. Tung and his associates would all be deprived of a vote they had in 1995.

In 1995, all members of the Regional Council and District Boards were elected. The July 1 appointments of those who never stood for election or lost is damaging the credibility of these public bodies. The Chief Executive should abolish the appointment system and the Legislative Council elected in 1998 should pass the electoral laws to govern these polls.

Provisional Legislature

Martin Lee expressed regret at the government's handling of the legal challenge to the Provisional Legislature -- in particular the SAR's insistence that Hong Kong courts did not have jurisdiction to decide the legality of the appointed legislature, eroding both Hong Kong's autonomy and rule of law. The Party gave Mr. Tung an article by a Basic Law expert to back up this position.

The Party also pointed out that the Preparatory Committee had undertaken that the PLC would only pass "necessary legislation," but that the appointed body is aggressively passing laws, including the Immigration Ordinance, and had frozen seven other laws passed by the ousted legislature. Government officials have indicated they will table more bills to the appointed legislature, such as the Mandatory Provident Fund. The Party urged the Chief Executive to defer all key bills until after elections are held.

Importation of Labour

The Party expressed concern about the importation of construction labour in the near future because of the contraction of the construction sector and the sufficiency of current manpower. The reduction in housing construction and the completion of the new airport and the extension wing of the Convention and Exhibition center means the construction sector is shrinking. To prevent rising unemployment, the Party recommends the Government work with the Re-training Department to attract more labour to enter the field. The former legislators also believe the Government should table a bill to the first SAR Legislative Council to giving the legislature the authority to monitor the importation of labour.

Other Livelihood Issues

A summary of livelihood policy proposals, including housing, education, the economy and social services was given to the Chief Executive for his reference in preparing the annual Policy Address.

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