8 July 1997

The Democratic Party Condemns Electoral Arrangements Announced by the SAR Executive Council as Anti-democratic and Against the Public Will

Today the Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government announced new electoral methods which are later to be passed by the appointed Provisional Legislature. Martin Lee and Democratic Party leaders swiftly condemned the proposals as "targeted at democrats," "designed to thwart the public will by giving seats to those who lost in past elections" and as a "retrograde step for democracy."

Democratic Party Chairman Martin Lee commented:

"The point of Proportional Representation in countries where it exists is not to ensure that the most popular party gets only a tiny number of seats -- this is a farcical distortion of the purpose of elections, which is to represent the public will. Chinese leaders have said that Hong Kong would be 'more democratic' under Chinese rule -- now we see clearly what democracy with Chinese characteristics looks like.

There has been no genuine public consultation about these announced changes. Broadly speaking, it is clear that the entire point of all of the changes is to ensure that the Democratic Party -- which won the largest number of seats in the 1991 and 1995 legislative elections -- will be reduced to a tiny minority in the council. This represents the beginning of the 'Singaporisation' of Hong Kong, where there are so-called 'elections' -- but the results are always what the government wants."

Below the Democratic Party briefly outlines its initial reaction to the specifics of the decision of the SAR's Executive Council on the Election Method of the First Legislative Council and the detrimental effects on representative government of these changes on the three types of election:

I. Geographical (Democratic) Constituencies (20 seats):

In accordance with the Basic Law, currently 20 seats are elected on a single seat, single vote ("first-past-the-post" system), as in the US, UK and many other democratic systems. The announced Proportional Representation (PR) arrangements are designed specifically to dramatically reduce the number of seats which can be won by democrats and to give seats to pro-Beijing candidates who consistently lost legislative elections in 1991 and 1995.

The PR "List Voting System" (from the SAR government-issued announcement) will take away the right of the people of Hong Kong to elect a majority of candidates from one political party. It is clearly designed to aid a candidate running as an "independent." Even in the Executive Council's proposed example of the electoral changes, an independent candidate "wins" one seat, while a political party wins only two seats with nearly four times the number of votes.

It is vital to look at the overall picture with PR. PR is not itself un-democratic, rather the intent is that small parties have a voice -- but the intent is not that the most popular party and candidates with the majority of the popular vote are condemned to a tiny minority. Further, the 30 functional constituency and 10 election committee seats will certainly go to pro-Beijing and elitist business interests. Thus these arrangements go strongly against the will of the Hong Kong people.

II. Functional Constituencies (30 seats) and Election Committee (10 seats):

In the new proposals for the Functional Constituencies (seats elected by professions), small, easily manipulated constituencies will be re-instated, disenfranchising a large number of people who had a second vote in 1995. Corporate voting ("one company, one vote") will also be returned, with no voter accountability to members.

The Executive Council has not finalised its proposals for the Election Committee (EC), but the selection of the 800 members of the EC should satisfy the criteria of being universal, fair and democratic, rather than narrow, anti-democratic and predictable.

III. Poll Results:

According to a recent poll conducted by the Democratic Party from June 2 to June 4, 1997, 41.4% of Hong Kong people indicated they do not want to change the existing voting system. A separate poll question found that of those polled who had an opinion, proportional representation was in fact the least preferred election method and that among all the election methods, one person, one vote is the most popular method by far. Public opinion poll results below:

Single seat, single vote 39.3%
No preference 30.0%
Multiple-seat, single vote 17.4%
Proportional representation 13.2%

IV. Conclusion:

The Democratic Party is opposed to the SAR government proposals which hopelessly distort the wishes of Hong Kong people and which will produce an entirely predictable result of a rubber-stamp legislature which Beijing can control. A major casualty will be the direct accountability of a representative to Hong Kong people -- and direct access for constituents in each of the 20 districts which previously existed in the geographical constituencies.

The Democratic Party supports the single seat, single vote method. This method has proven to build a fair, efficient representative government accountable to the people, and Hong Kong people have expressed no objection to the system already in place, nor any desire to have it changed.

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