John Tsang says Hong Kong has the obligation to implement the Article 23 legislation. Photo: Asia Times
John Tsang says Hong Kong has the obligation to implement the Article 23 legislation. Photo: Asia Times

Former Hong Kong financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, who is seeking to become the city’s next leader, pledged to restart political reform if he wins the election, according to his newly released platform.

I do not underestimate the difficulties of achieving consensus on political reform,” Tsang said Monday in his platform statement.

“If we could formulate a CE election plan which is acceptable to different quarters, that will be a big step forward for Hong Kong’s political system, and both Hong Kong people and the ‘one country, two systems’ will be the winners,” he said, adding that everyone will be loser if nothing is changed.

He said he would find common ground, build consensus, truly reflect views to the central government and create a favorable environment for political reform. He will restart moves to amend the procedures for the election of Chief Executive, and work for “dual universal suffrage,” referring to the elections of the Chief Executive and Legislative Council.

In 2014, the Hong Kong government launched a reform package for the 2017 Chief Executive election based on the Central Government’s framework announced on August 31, or the so-called “831 decision,” which gave Beijing the power to screen candidates. The proposal was vetoed by the pro-democracy camp in the LegCo in May 2015.

Article 23 legislation

Tsang said he would also push for enacting Article 23 national security legislation in the Basic Law.

In 2002, the government released proposals for the anti-subversion law, which caused controversy and divided Hong Kong, which operates as a separate legal system based on the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

Protests against the bill resulted in a massive demonstration on July 1, 2003, which ultimately led to the resignation of two Executive Council members and withdrawal of the bill.

The Basic Law has now been implemented in Hong Kong for close to 20 years,” he said. “There is no reason for the Hong Kong SAR government to delay the enactment of local legislation in accordance with Article 23 any longer.”

Former Hong Kong financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah says he will restart the political reform if he becomes Chief Executive. Photo: John Tsang/Facebook

He said the main concern was not about whether to legislate or not, but about the details of the law and the legislative procedures.

We will learn from past mistakes and do our best to legislate for Article 23 with a view to safeguarding the security of our country and Hong Kong and making a law acceptable to the people of Hong Kong.

Tsang said in a media conference on Monday that he would like to complete the legislation of Article 23 and political reform before the current LegCo members finish their term in mid-2020 to avoid adding more variables to the issue.

He said the government would launch a white paper on Article 23 to consult the public, while inviting credible members in the legal sector to spearhead enactment of the law.

Resolve housing problems

In response to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s proposal in his last Policy Address on January 18 that suggests increasing land supply by using the country parks, Tsang proposed to implement the East Lantau Metropolis without compromising the country parks and ecologically sensitive marine areas.

He also suggested developing New Territories North into a new town with a population of 200,000 to 300,000 people while retaining the unique features of small towns. He said his administration would make an integrated plan to deal with the issues of brownfield and deserted agricultural land, including relocation of the logistics and special industries to alternative sites.

He said the government should increase home-ownership supply, relax eligibility criteria, review pricing policy to help the middle class, new ideas for urban renewal and encourage joint development.

Others seeking to become the city’s Chief Executive in March are: New People’s Party chair Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, former chef secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, retired high court justice Woo Kwok-hing and a former member of a pro-Beijing party Wu Sai-chuen.