Chief Executive contender Woo Kwok-hing has said that the Hong Kong government should not enact the controversial Article 23 security law before passing a political reform bill.
On Wednesday, the 70-year-old ex-judge made his first policy plan announcement after declaring his candidacy. He emphasised that he would postpone enacting national security laws “unless and until the community has reached a consensus on political reform.”
Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, stipulates that the city should enact security laws to prohibit acts of treason and subversion against the Chinese government. The government pushed for the controversial law in 2003, only to abandon it after mass demonstrations.
In his address, Woo also laid out his policy proposals on areas such as education, labour welfare and development of the IT sector.
He said he would restart the political reform process once he takes office. He proposed to turn the Chief Executive Election Committee into a nominating committee, adding that its voter base should be raised from the current number of 250,000 to 1 million. He said the voter base should gradually increase over the next two terms of government to 3 million, thereby covering all eligible voters in Hong Kong and realising de facto universal suffrage in 15 years.
He emphasised that his proposal was in line with the requirements set forth by the Basic Law.
‘A good start’
He added that incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s move to not seek re-election is conducive for Hong Kong to restart the political reform process.
“The current term of the HKSAR government has unnecessarily polarised the community,” he said. “CY Leung’s move to not seek reelection is a good start in the right direction.”
In 2014, two years into Leung’s term, China’s National People’s Congress issued the so-called “August 31 decision,” setting out the framework for the 2017 chief executive election. The pan-democratic camp saw the proposal as highly restrictive, as all potential candidates would have to be approved by a large number of members in a nomination committee dominated by Beijing loyalists.
The decision sparked the 79-day pro-democracy Umbrella Movement later in the year, and the political reform bill was voted down as the pro-democracy camp voted against it.
Woo said the next leader of Hong Kong should lead with fairness, honesty and integrity, adding that this is crucial “to put Hong Kong back on the right track.”
“Hong Kong is now very polarised. People don’t trust the present government,” he added. “I’m a different person altogether – I’m trustworthy. When I was doing my job as the chairman of the electoral affairs commission, people trusted me. If there were disagreements, I would pass my judgement to settle all these disagreements in a very fair and equal manner.”
As a breakaway from previous chief executives, Woo aligned with the pan-democratic camp and said he would support the vindication of June 4 – the date when the Tiananmen massacre happened in 1989. He added: “But you can say that this is a mainland isse. We can handle Hong Kong first.”
Leung repeatedly dodged questions surrounding the Tiananmen massacre after he became Chief Executive in 2012.
‘I love Hong Kong’
Woo said he has already renounced his British citizenship, a requirement for becoming the leader of the semi-autonomous city. He added that he decided to run because he was indebted to Hong Kong for giving him the opportunities he had throughout his career.
“I am running because I love Hong Kong emotionally. I was born here, I got married here, and I later became a barrister and a judge here,” he said, adding that his legal training would allow him to listen to different voices but not rush to judgement.
He added he was confident he could win the support of the pan-democratic camp with his determination to restart political reform – a demand frequently made by the camp.
However, lawmaker Charles Mok Nai-kwong, a member of the pro-democracy Professional Commons party, said Woo’s policy proposals for the technology sector proved that his understanding of its problems was at the same level as CY Leung.
“[His] platform included ‘nurturing technology talent’ and ‘largely increase research and development spending,’” he said. “He may continue the policy mistakes made by CY Leung.”
The Neighbourhood and Worker’s Service Centre, another pro-democracy party, said in a statement that Woo’s labour welfare proposal was “disappointing.”
“Regulating standard working hours is one of the most important labour policies nowadays. Leung Chun-ying has dragged the problem out until today. Surprisingly, ex-judge Woo will continue to delay it,” the statement said.