Democrats fighting for universal suffrage in Hong Kong yesterday seized on growing concern over the expected resignation of the city's leader to renew their call for political reform.
Legislators said debate over finding a replacement for Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華) was less important than changing the city's political system.
"We can never rely on the goodwill or ability of one person," legislator Kwok Ka-ki (郭家麒) said. "Hong Kong needs a system that can enable the best possible person to be elected."
Expectations are high that Tung, who has run Hong Kong since its return to Chinese rule from British colonial control in 1997, will quit with two years left of his second term of office.
Kwok said it didn't matter who replaced Tung if the city's political structure was not reformed.
"We need a system that can allow us to fire the person if they are not doing a good job," he told local RTHK radio.
Hong Kong's leader is selected by a group of business and political elites who are hand-picked by Beijing. Only half the city's 60 legislators are directly elected, with the rest voted in by members of trade and industry groups.
Democrats in Hong Kong have long fought for universal suffrage.
Clashes with Tung's government over the timing of political reforms led to his deep unpopularity and the weakening of his mandate.
"A mature and fair political system is and will be of paramount importance to a city like Hong Kong," Kwok said.
His comments were backed by Martin Lee (李柱銘), former leader of the city's largest pro-democracy party.
"It's not a question of changing the man -- you have to change the system," Lee told reporters.