LC: CS' response to motion moved by the Hon Frederick Fung
Following is the speech by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Donald Tsang, on the motion moved by the Hon Frederick Fung "Requesting the Chief Executive to submit a supplementary report to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress" at the Legislative Council today (May 5)(translation):
On behalf of the Hong Kong SAR Government and the Constitutional Development Task Force (the Task Force), I would like to respond to the motion moved by the Honourable Frederick Fung and views expressed by other Members just now.
As holders of public office, we stand ready to accept criticisms, since criticisms from different sectors of the community would help us improve the quality of our service. Presently, some Legislative Councillors are disappointed by the decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) that the universal suffrage shall not be introduced for the
elections in 2007 and 2008, and have made certain accusations against us. We can very well understand their sentiments.
However, this does not mean that we should ignore some less-than-rational arguments, which prevent our community from seeking an appropriate solution for constitutional development through consensus building and calm, reasoned discussions.
But since the motion touches on the nine factors put forward by the Task Force, the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs has just responded in detail and, as the representative of the Task Force, I feel obliged to make certain clarifications.
It must be pointed out that these nine factors are completely underpinned by provisions in the Basic Law and the principle of "One Country, Two Systems". They have solid backing and are by no means created out of the blue.
Besides, since its establishment in January, the Task Force's consultation work has been highly open and transparent, including setting out the issues of legal procedures and principles regarding constitutional development, the presentation of relevant documents to the public and the Legislative Council, and the setting up of the Task Force website etc. The Task Force also
briefed the Legislative Council and the public on the latest situation and progress made, before and after its Beijing visit. All views and opinions gathered by the Task Force are made public and conveyed to the Central Authorities in full. The nine factors are derived from the Task Force's objective and serious engagements with all sectors of the community as well as with
the Central Authorities over a three-month period; they are concluded after the completion of a series of transparent and rigorous work. Hence it would be a distortion of truth for some Members, who understand the whole process, to accuse the Task Force of failing to reflect the opinions of the public.
Some people do not understand why the Task Force put forward the nine factors. The truth is, the more clearly we present these issues from the outset, the more we could generate discussions on the constitutional system. This is because the closer a proposal is to these factors, the easier it would be to achieve consensus. As we are all fully aware, any concrete proposal on
Hong Kong's constitutional system has to be agreed by three parties, namely, a two-thirds majority support of the Legislative Council, and the consent of the Chief Executive; the proposal must also be reported to the NPCSC for approval or for the record. We cannot proceed without the support of any of them. All our efforts would be futile if we blind ourselves from the
fact that we need all of the three parties to set our constitutional development in motion.
Democracy is our common aspiration. The people of Hong Kong people generally agree with the ultimate aim of introducing universal suffrage, but there is a considerable divergence of views on the pace of, and the mode for pursuing this ultimate aim. Such divergence exists not only in the community but also among Members in this very chamber. For the time being, the only
clear consensus is the common wish to improve the electoral methods in 2007 and 2008 and to increase the scope of participation, so that these elections would become more representative.
Under such circumstances, we must recognise that relentless conflict and discord is not the wish of Hong Kong citizens; our citizens expect the Government, the legislature, and concerned groups and individuals to join hands in exploring and discussing how we could promote constitutional development while maintaining the harmony, stability and prosperity of our community.
Some Members have described the inability to introduce the method of universal suffrage in the elections in 2007 and 2008 as the dead end to the path to democracy. This is an overstatement and too pessimistic. In fact, since the Reunification, Hong Kong's democratic development has progressed orderly in each election of the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council. In
accordance with the NPCSC decision, the two elections in 2007 and 2008 can surely stride forward and set a new milestone in the constitutional development of Hong Kong.
We could, for example, consider whether to increase the number of seats in the Legislative Council to allow more committed talents to participate in the political arena. We could consider increasing the number of members in the Election Committee for the election of the Chief Executive, or to broaden the electorate which elect the Election Committee. These are issues which
deserve exploration and consideration. I am now drafting the Third Report. It will list out areas which can be amended under the Basic Law in relation to the methods for electing the Chief Executive and for forming the Legislative Council. This would provide reference to facilitate the community in forming proposals in the coming months. We will, of course, listen widely
to views of all sectors.
In other words, we have already entered into a new phase of discussion on concrete proposals. This calls for even more calm and rational dialogue and discussion, as well as insightful opinions of fellow Legislative Council Members. If we want positive results, the right attitude is to be inclusive in the pursuit of consensus.
There is nothing further than the truth to say that the implementation of "One Country, Two Systems" has failed, as some Members suggested.
According to these claims, we are no longer living under the original system that we are familiar with, and the system has changed to "Beijing people running Hong Kong" under "One Country, One System". In fact, all that we need to do is to look at the current situation in Hong Kong and we would find that our way of life, economic structure, legal system, freedoms of speech
and the press, etc. are still what we have been used to. This is the best demonstration of the successful implementation of "One Country, Two Systems" in Hong Kong. The freedoms enjoyed by the people in Hong Kong have not diminished in any way since the Reunification.
The Central Authorities have also been extremely cautious in the implementation of "One Country, Two systems". Not only have they restrained themselves and fully respected the SAR's high degree of autonomy, they have also been looking after Hong Kong's interests in many ways.
But as far as constitutional development in Hong Kong is concerned, it is not a matter that we can deal with on our own. The Central Authorities have both the power and the responsibility to oversee our constitutional development under the Constitution and the Basic Law. China is a unitary state. The powers vested in local governments, including the SAR Government, are all
authorised by the Central Authorities. As a local administrative region, Hong Kong has no power to unilaterally decide or make changes to our political structure.
Even so, during the course of discussion on constitutional development, Hong Kong people still play an important role in expressing a wide range of opinions. Before making its decisions, the NPCSC had fully considered the views of the public as conveyed by the Task Force. It had also taken the initiative to meet with various sectors in Hong Kong to listen to their views.
This shows that the Central Authorities attaches great importance to and cares about Hong Kong. What we now enjoy is a political structure different from that of the Mainland under "One Country, Two Systems". We must not distort the picture by saying that this constitutional arrangement of our political development is an erosion of Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy.
Indeed, Hong Kong has been enjoying and will continue to enjoy a high degree of autonomy - we are vested with executive, legislative, independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication.
I understand that some might have different feelings towards the Mainland, given Hong Kong's long-time separation from China and the differences in our systems. However, the Hong Kong SAR is now part of our country. Our economic activities are closely integrated with that of the Mainland. We are the lifeblood of each other's economy. Our people support democracy, but they
long for prosperity and stability at the same time. The people of Hong Kong understand clearly that "One Country, Two Systems" is the arrangement that best meets the long-term good of both Hong Kong and the nation. Our political structure and democracy must develop under the framework of "One Country, Two Systems", so that the solid foundation that we built with our blood,
sweat and tears over the years would not be shaken. The people also do not want to challenge our relationship with the Central Authorities with this. Prolonged tension benefits nobody.
Neither an inharmonious relationship between the Central Authorities and Hong Kong nor a troubled mood in our community are conducive to building mutual trust between different sectors within Hong Kong, or that between Hong Kong and the Central Authorities. How can we succeed in pushing for democratic development if we only champion an agenda that is outside of the
framework of the Basic Law and the NPCSC decisions? How can a three-party consensus be built? I wish that Members would think twice and be rational and not go to different extremes.
When we publish our Third Report this month, we will invite the public and all sectors to express their view, and we will maintain our transparency and openness. The public would be able to participate in the discussion and to suggest different proposals that are consistent with the consensus of the three parties. Hong Kong people hope to see improvements in our political
structure. We must do our best to make this happen.
Moreover, I must point out that the freedom of speech is a great Hong Kong asset. It is what we expect in an open and pluralistic society. Much has been said and written about Hong Kong's constitutional development in the past few months. No doubt our free and unfettered media will continue to reflect the full range of opinions of the community in the weeks and months
The Central Authorities decided to let our political structure develop gradually. This decision was made having considered Hong Kong's actual situation and the need to balance the interests of different sectors. The two election methods could become more open and more democratic in 2007 and 2008. I hope that Members would calm their emotions, and join hands with other
sectors in the community to discuss, in a calm and pragmatic manner, and in the light of the NPCSC decision, elections methods in 2007 and 2008 which are suitable for Hong Kong.
Madam President, with the above remarks, I appeal to Members to vote against the Honourable Frederick Fung's motion.
Ends/Wednesday, May 5, 2004