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Transcript of SCA's standup on shortened polling hours

Following is the transcript (English portion) of a standup briefing given by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, at Central Government Offices this (September 25) afternoon:

SCA: According to our understanding, in making the practical arrangements for the District Council election in November and making this decision on voting hours, the Electoral Affairs Commission has conducted public consultation. Over the years, the Electoral Affairs Commission has pursued open, fair and honest elections as a matter of principle. It follows this principle very closely and will not act partially towards any particular political party. According to the laws of Hong Kong, the Electoral Affairs Commission is an independent statutory body. The HKSAR Government accepts and respects this principle. We also accept that on practical electoral arrangements such as voting hours, it is a matter for the Electoral Affairs Commission to make its own decision independently.

At the same time, we will follow closely whether the proposed change in voting hours will affect the voters' turnout rate in November this year. We will also follow closely whether the new arrangements will still enable individual voters to continue to cast their votes conveniently.

According to my understanding, the Electoral Affairs Commission would not be gazetting polling hours by tomorrow. We are going to have a meeting in the Legislative Council concerning this matter in the Constitutional Affairs Panel on Monday. This will then give the Commission the opportunity to consider any further views expressed in the course of the following week.

So far as we are concerned, I emphasise, that we respect the views of the public expressed during the public consultation exercise. I am sure that the Electoral Affairs Commission will have considered the views fully and faithfully. At the same time, it is for the Electoral Affairs Commission to make its decision independently. The Government respects that decision, but we will be following closely whether the current arrangement proposed will affect the voters' turnout rate in November and whether individual voters can still cast their votes conveniently.

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

End/Thursday, September 25, 2003