‘Economy must come before universal suffrage target’

A top legal scholar in Beijing said on Monday that the target of allowing Hong Kong to select its chief executive and all members of the legislature by universal suffrage hasn’t changed, but the city should focus on developing its economy and improve people’s livelihood first.

Speaking at a briefing on Beijing’s recent white paper on Hong Kong’s democratic development, Wang Zhenmin, the vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said the “One Country, Two Systems” principle had at one stage deviated greatly from its original intent.

He noted that some people were worried about whether the central government would be angry and change its policy towards Hong Kong.

He said the white paper, issued by Beijing after this month’s Legislative Council election, states clearly that the central government is determined to continue to implement the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.

Wang added that Beijing had done a lot in the past two years to save Hong Kong and its democratic system, and to fight against anti-China forces intent on causing trouble in the SAR.

He cited the white paper as saying that the SAR’s target of achieving “dual universal suffrage”, as stipulated in the Basic Law, hadn’t changed.

But he said Hong Kong needs time to recuperate after serious political turmoil.

“We have paid a high price for the new democratic system today. My feeling is that people have been longing for stability,” he said.

“Society needs to recuperate and resources should be used to develop the economy and improve people’s livelihood. A strong economic and societal basis is needed for Hong Kong’s democratic development.”