Universal suffrage a consensus between democrats and Ho Iat Seng

Sulu Sou and other members of New Macau showing their list of requests at Ho Iat Seng’s campaign office

Pro-democracy New Macau Association (ANM) met with Chief Executive (CE) sole-candidate Ho Iat Seng yesterday. The democrats brought along a total of eight requests, covering five areas, which the ANM hopes the candidate, if elected, can work on during his term in office.

The requests include: “Reactivate political reform towards universal suffrage”, “Submit major expenditure to the AL for approval”, “Attend questioning sessions more frequently”, “Open up consultative committees and introduce direct election”, “Safeguard the autonomy of the SAR and our fundamental rights”, “Introduce legislation for labor union rights and right to strike”, “Introduce new public housing such as youth hostels”, and “Introduce urban renewal and flood control infrastructure”.

Represented by lawmaker Sulu Sou, the group held a press conference after the meeting. First of all, the lawmaker said both the ANM and Ho agreed that Beijing’s authority in political reform is a consensus, while the SAR’s responsibility to promote change is another matter.

“The SAR has been established for 20 years already. If we keep waiting, we can’t tell whether we can realize universal suffrage on or before 2049,” said Sou, reiterating that there is not much time left for Macau to attain universal suffrage. There are only 30 years left in the 50 year timeframe stated in the Basic Law.

Sou said Ho promised that universal suffrage will not be ruled out in  his tenure.

The pro-democracy lawmaker hinted that Ho will only disclose an eventual political reform proposal if previously approved by the Central Government. He is, according to Sou, willing to take all the blame for any shortcomings regarding this matter.

However, Ho also told the ANM delegates that perhaps political reform would be proposed or initiated by the younger generations.

As a 10 year veteran in the legislature, Ho told Sou that he “understood the requests of the legislature and how much lawmakers wanted the government to be scrutinized.”

Therefore, Sou was promised that the next CE would increase his participation in the AL’s inquiry sessions. As such, lawmakers can communicate directly with the head of the administration.

Ho said that he will instruct his officials to explain major public projects to AL sessions, such as the RMB20 billion Guangdong-Macau Development Fund announced last year and the MOP60-billion budget request for the new public investment company this year.

Sou said that Ho had wondered why the latter stirred up controversy in society. According to Sou, Ho questioned, “Why didn’t the government request an additional item in this year’s budget, similar to what they did for the Development Fund?” Ho also explained to Sou that he did not have access to the bill, as he had then resigned from the AL.

This was the first time a CE candidate met with the ANM. Sou hopes if Ho makes it to the top post, such meetings can become regular. If so, the ANM expects to make in-depth exchange on all the five areas.

The time allocated and used for each topic fluctuated significantly. Sou said only a couple of minutes were spent discussing the trade union legislation. “Ho told us, ‘You know me. I said it would be done, and it should be done,’” said Sou. Ho has pointed out that Macau is the only place in China without a dedicated law governing trade unions. Anthony Lam

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