The Pulse: Occupy Central Narrows the Field; District Councils “Promote” Constitutional Reform

21 May 2014 | RTHK

1. Benny Tai and Michael Davis discuss results of the Constitutional Reform Deliberation Day.

2. In societies that get to fully elect their government there’s always a bit of a conundrum when the government spends public money to convince the public of a viewpoint it might not share. It gets even more confusing when this activity occurs in the process of a consultation supposedly to assess public views. Hong Kong’s government allocated a total of HKS4.5 million in public money to district councils to promote the idea that proposals for electoral reform should follow the Basic Law, but do the public’s representatives have a right to help determine how that money was spent?

Occupy Central will have strong case in judicial review against company-bid rejection, experts say

Jeffie Lam | 13 May 2014 | SCMP

“The Companies Registry’s decision is inappropriate,” barrister Stephen Char Shik-ngor said. “Occupy Central would see a very high chance of winning the case if they were to file a judicial review against the decision.”

Hong Kong practises common law, which presumes people charged with a criminal offence are innocent until proven guilty, Char said.

“This is Hong Kong’s core value and the foundation of our rule of law,” he said. “Occupy Central has not yet committed anything illegal … how could the Companies Registry make such an assumption and declare it an illegal organisation even before it breaches the law?”

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Zhang put on hold as democrats review rift

Jeffie Lam | 13 May 2014 | SCMP

Two Democratic Party lawmakers have postponed a meeting scheduled for tomorrow with Beijing’s top representative to focus on the widening rift threatening to tear the pan-democratic camp apart.

Central government liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming has invited pan-democrat lawmakers for one-on-one discussions on electoral reform.

The decision came after supporters of Occupy Central shortlisted three plans during a “deliberation day” last week which call for an idea banned by Beijing: allowing public nomination of chief executive hopefuls.

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Occupy Central’s bid to set up company rejected

Gary Cheung, Tony Cheung | 12 May 2014 | SCMP

“It was inappropriate [to compare us with a triad society] because a triad society’s objective is to engage in criminal acts,”

“Our goal is to achieve universal suffrage, and we have deliberation and voting before we decide” whether civil disobedience is required. “Many organisations, such as Greenpeace, League of Social Democrats and People Power, could undertake acts of civil disobedience and yet they are registered as companies in Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong’s Companies Registry turned down a bid by Occupy Central to register as a company, something one person familiar with the matter compared to an application by a “triad society”.

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Democracy alliance chief urges unity to beat chief executive candidate screening

Tanna Chong | 11 May 2014 | SCMP

“Our core struggle is to fight off political screening in the 2017 chief executive election. Only unity can mobilise Hongkongers’ support, enabling us to exert pressure on Beijing and the government,”

Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, the alliance’s convenor, said only unity could give the camp sufficient strength to bargain with Beijing.

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Battle for the soul of Occupy after vote on reform plans

Tony Cheung, Tanna Chong | 10 May 2014 | SCMP

Locking down a city’s business heart might seem like a radical action but a political middle path has been on the mind of Benny Tai Yiu-ting since he initiated the Occupy Central idea.

In a column in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on January 16 last year, the University of Hong Kong legal scholar and Occupy Central co-founder Tai wrote that those who joined the pro-democracy civil-disobedience movement “should include social opinion leaders, especially those who have never broken the law, or non-radical political leaders, former officials … and academics”.

Their participation would create a “powerful” call to society, Tai wrote. Sixteen months later the movement has endorsed three political reform proposals that all include the right for the public to nominate chief executive candidates in 2017. That result has drawn accusations that Occupy has been led away from Tai’s planned middle path by more extreme elements.

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Liaison chief Zhang Xiaoming unmoved by Occupy Central’s poll options

Tony Cheung, Tanna Chong | 9 May 2014 | SCMP

Beijing’s liaison office chief has reiterated that reform for the 2017 chief executive election must adhere to the Basic Law, a stance previously taken to rule out public nomination.

The remarks by Zhang Xiaoming, quoted by a pan-democratic lawmaker who met him yesterday, were the first response by a mainland official to Occupy Central supporters’ selection of three options for the poll, which all call for the public to have the right to nominate candidates.

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Can alliance survive after Occupy vote?

Gary Cheung, Tanna Chong and Tony Cheung | 8 May 2014 | SCMP

On the face of it, radical pan-democrats were the winners of Occupy Central’s final “deliberation day”. Their supporters ensured that all three proposals to be put to a public vote next month would see voters have the power to nominate candidates for chief executive in 2017.

Yet the result of Tuesday’s shortlisting, by 2,500 activists, is likely to deepen the rift between radicals and moderates, who wanted the public to be able to pick a proposal that left nomination to a nominating committee, as stipulated by the Basic Law.

Radicals now face the question of whether enough people will vote to make the citywide “referendum” from June 20 to 22 a worthwhile exercise.

Meanwhile, one key question for the camp as a whole is whether the Alliance for True Democracy, which brings together 26 of the 27 pan-democratic lawmakers, can hold together.

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Shenzhen court gives Hong Kong publisher Yiu Man-tin 10-year prison sentence

Angela Meng | 8 May 2014 | SCMP

“It’s a persecution of intellectuals for their words and a blow to Hong Kong’s freedom of speech and press.”

A Shenzhen court sentenced Hong Kong publisher Yiu Man-tin to 10 years in jail yesterday for “smuggling ordinary goods”, his lawyer said.

The retired engineer-turned-publisher, 73, who is also known as Yao Wentian, was detained on October 27. Prior to his arrest he had been preparing to publish a book entitled Godfather Xi Jinping by dissident and writer Yu Jie, according to his family and friends.

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Hong Kong Publisher’s Prison Sentence Is Called a Political Vendetta

Chris Buckley | 7 May 2014 | New York Times

HONG KONG — Rejecting defense arguments for leniency, a court in southern China sentenced a Hong Kong publisher to 10 years in prison on Wednesday for smuggling industrial chemicals. The family and supporters of the publisher, Yiu Mantin, has said the charges were a political vendetta brought on by his plans to publish a book condemning the Chinese Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping.

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Occupy Central accused of ‘disenfranchising’ moderates in vote

Tony Cheung, Tanna Chong | 7 May 2014 | SCMP

Occupy Central’s choice of three reform proposals for a public vote next month risks “disenfranchising” Hongkongers who do not want “confrontation” with Beijing, a group advocating a more moderate plan says.

Occupy supporters met on Tuesday to shortlist three plans for its “civil referendum” on reform for the 2017 chief executive election. But all the plans chosen by the 2,500 people who attended the “deliberation day” allow the public to nominate candidates, which Beijing has ruled out.

The decision sparked concern from five moderate pan-democratic lawmakers and from Hong Kong 2020, the advocacy group set up by former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang.

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Universal suffrage would ensure stronger mandate for chief executive, says business chamber

Tony Cheung, Gary Cheung | 6 May 2014 | SCMP

“We believe that with universal suffrage, at least our chief executive would be popularly elected, be recognised by the public and be more representative,” Adeline Wong Ching-man, CEO of the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association, told the South China Morning Post.

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Hong Kong still seeking a middle ground on electoral reform

Jeffie Lam | 6 May 2014 | SCMP

“The views are still polarised,” said Dr Brian Fong Chi-hang, a Hong Kong Institute of Education political scientist, one of 18 academics who submitted a plan rejecting public nomination.

“Pan-democrats have been claiming the moral high ground to demand public nomination, whereas the government and Beijing loyalists have claimed the legal high ground to ban their ideas,” Fong said.

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Moderate reform doesn’t stand a chance at Occupy Central deliberation today

Jeffie Lam | 6 May 2014 | SCMP

Moderate proposals on electoral reform are expected to receive lukewarm support at Occupy Central’s third “deliberation day” today, held to select the most popular plans to be put to a citywide vote next month.

Instead, radical models that push for public nomination of chief executive hopefuls in 2017 are likely to triumph, given today’s event will be dominated by about 2,000 backers of the Occupy democracy drive, scholars say.

The three reform proposals to emerge out of 15 on the table will proceed to a June 20-22 electronic civil referendum, with the final choice receiving Occupy’s official endorsement.

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Law Society’s Ambrose Lam refuses to weigh in on chief executive debate

Tanna Chong | 6 May 2014 | SCMP

The solicitors’ professional body is staying silent on two key questions of political reform on which barristers have already stated their position.

Law Society president Ambrose Lam San-keung yesterday refused to comment on public recommendation – a process by which the public could put forward non-binding recommendations for 2017 chief executive candidates. He also described the question of a cap on the number of candidates as “a political wrestling match which I do not want to weigh into”, adding: “I do not want to make a comment on the number.”

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Radicals urge public nomination choice on ‘deliberation day’ referendum

Tanna Chong, Tony Cheung | 6 May 2014 | SCMP

Three proposals that push for public nomination of chief executive hopefuls in 2017, an idea already dismissed by Beijing, triumphed in Occupy Central’s third and final “deliberation day” yesterday in a vote on models for a citywide “referendum” on political reform.

Eight relatively moderate proposals, including suggestions by Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-Wah and former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang’s Hong Kong 2020 think tank, failed to make the cut.

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Hong Kong Basic Law Committee member urges middle path deal between different parties

Stuart Lau | 5 May 2014 | SCMP

Barrister Johnny Mok Shiu-luen says if the two sides forge a consensus on the nominating committee, it appears “likely” to him that Beijing will agree to it.

“In my view, if a consensus is to be reached, the biggest chance is … a middle proposal between the moderate proponents and those so-called conservatives [who argue for 50 per cent member approval],” Mok said in an interview with the South China Morning Post.

Mok is the first person from the prominent 12-member Basic Law Committee to address political reform since the public consultation ended on Saturday.

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Financial Secretary John Tsang calls for compromise on electoral reform

Jeffie Lam | 5 May 2014 | SCMP

“I always believe the relatively extreme opinions … are only … bargaining tactics in the reform’s negotiation, where different parties would still be willing to make reasonable compromises eventually for the sake of Hong Kong’s democratic progress,”

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah has urged lawmakers to agree on a compromise over the terms for electoral reform or risk damaging the city’s economic future.

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