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Transcript of SCA' s stand-up briefing

Following is the transcript (English portion) of a stand-up briefing given by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, after the LegCo motion debate on July 1 march late last night (June 25):

Reporter: What is your main point of contention (on the motion)?

SCA: The main points which I made today are that in furthering constitutional development within the parameters of the Basic Law, it is essential that Members of the legislature should seek to arrive at a consensus. It is important because the Basic Law provides that if we are going to make any changes to electoral methods and electoral systems, we need a two-thirds majority support within the legislature before any changes can be considered by the Chief Executive.

Reporter: But the point critics are trying to make is everything seems to be falling mostly in one direction and you cannot get a consensus if that's the way things work.

SCA: It is true that according to the Basic Law, we have a legislature of 60 members. The Basic Law provides that if we are going to make any changes to the electoral system, we need a two-thirds majority support within the legislature before any proposed changes can be considered by the Chief Executive. Therefore the main points which I emphasised today are that the Government, political parties and independent legislators of the legislature have a common mission to widen the common ground, to build consensus and to forge a way forward.

Reporter: People feel because everything is flowing in one direction and not the other, and that there are critics who are in the margin are really not being given credit, they are not being listened to. That's why they feel the need to take to the street?

SCA: The Secretary for Justice has explained in detail our proposals for the Article 23 legislation. It is a fact that this Administration has taken on board views expressed by the legal profession, by Members of the legislature, and by community groups in adjusting our detailed provisions for national security legislation. So, the fact remains that we have taken on board views and opinions made both by those who are critics and those who support the enactment of the national security legislation.

Reporter: If on July 1, 100 000 or more people do show up in the streets to protest on an array of issues, what if anything will that mean to the Government?

SCA: It means that Hong Kong is an open society. The people of Hong Kong have a full panoply of channels to express their views including the right to have public demonstrations to express their opinions. We have listened very carefully in the last six years since reunification the views from all sides. These are not easy times for Hong Kong. We face immense economic challenges. There are social issues to be resolved, and as a government, we are trying very hard to do what we can within the means that we have and to listen very carefully the views expressed in the community.

Reporter: The criticisms have not only come from the local community but from the international community. It is even growing with governments involved ... the US Congress may get involved, and yet the Government stands very thoroughly by its position. Is the position essentially ... we're convinced we're right and everybody else is wrong?

SCA: We have a constitutional duty to enact national security legislation. The Basic Law grants us that power and imposes on us that duty. Every jurisdiction needs national security protection. Hong Kong is not alone. What we have done is to craft this piece of legislation entirely in accordance with our commitments, to respect human rights and freedoms in accordance with international covenants applicable to Hong Kong. We believe that this is achievable and that in the fullness of time, it will be proven that this piece of legislation will not erode Hong Kong's rights and freedoms.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

End/Thursday, June 26, 2003