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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, at Central Government Offices this (September 5) afternoon:

SCA: Over lunch today I had a meeting with the representatives of the Power for Democracy and also the Hong Kong Democratic Foundation. This is the third time I met with these representatives over the course of the last year, and recently I also had the opportunity to meet with members of the Democratic Party. That took place in July. And more recently, I had a dinner engagement with representatives of the ADPL (Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood).

It is very important to us to continue to listen to views from all sides. For the time being, we have not completed our internal research. But at the same time, on the question of constitutional development beyond 2007, we are in a listening mode. We are very receptive to views which any political parties or public organisations wish to put to us.

On the question of constitutional development beyond 2007, there is indeed a wide spectrum of views within this community. There are those who support a faster pace of development towards direct elections. There are those who suggest that we should retain functional constituency seats in the Legislative Council.

Even on the question of the timetable for conducting this review, there are at least two bodies of opinion. The representatives of the two organisations that I met today suggested that we should begin this public consultation process as soon as possible. Some of you may have noticed the debates in the District Councils yesterday. There is one body of opinion which suggests that we should only commence this public consultation exercise in September 2004 or beyond.

So for the time being, we are listening very intensely and closely to what views there are in the community. In the meantime, we will try to complete our preparation for conducting internal research on the question of constitutional development beyond 2007.

I also emphasised to the representatives who joined me for the occasion today that it was very important for political parties or public organisations which were interested in constitutional development to come to some consensus.

It is very necessary for us to try our very best to do so, because the Basic Law requires that there should be two-thirds majority support for any proposed changes to electoral systems beyond 2007. That is the starting point for us to initiate any change. And on the part of the Government, we would do our very best to reach out to all political parties and organisations and to try to build consensus in the months and years ahead.

Reporter: The Chief Executive has withdrawn the Article 23 legislation. There are calls from political parties saying that the re-launch of the consultation should not be done until there is universal suffrage. Do you have any plan for fastening the pace towards democratisation in order to pave the way for the passage of the Article 23 legislation?

SCA: As far as I can see, the Basic Law has set out very clear principles for us to conduct our constitutional development review. Universal suffrage is the ultimate aim to be attained for constitutional development in Hong Kong. In the meantime, we have to have regard to the actual situation in Hong Kong and we should continue to pursue constitutional development according to the principle of making gradual and orderly progress. We will be conducting our review within these parameters and principles. So far as I am concerned, it is very necessary for us to have reasonably adequate time for the public to give their views on constitutional development beyond 2007. We will make our final proposals at some future point in time taking into account the results of a wide public consultation exercise.

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

End/Friday, September 5, 2003