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Transcript of SCA's standup on constitutional development review

Following is the transcript (English portion) of a standup briefing given by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, at Legislative Council building this (October 8) afternoon:

Reporter: Since there was a motion asking Mr Tung to step down and was defeated half a year ago, there is another similar motion at the beginning of the LegCo session, how would you comment on that?

SCA: In Hong Kong, we have a free and open society. All sorts of motions and issues can be debated and it is very natural that in this free and open society there are different types of views about the governance of Hong Kong.

So far as we are concerned, we believe that since reunification, since the establishment of the Special Administrative Region, as a Government with the support of the Legislative Council and the community, we have weathered quite a few storms and challenges. We have overcome the Asian financial crisis. We have defeated SARS. We have made progress in terms of furthering our economic co-operation with the Mainland through the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement and such other initiatives. We believe that the record of the Government is there for the community to judge. We hope that we would continue to have the support of the Legislative Council and the community in continuing the administration of Hong Kong.

Reporter: Some people commented that recently it seems that the Government has a more positive and open attitude listening to the public. Do you agree with that?

SCA: Since July 1, the Chief Executive has undertaken on a number of occasions that we would listen intensely to the views of the public on a full range of public issues which are close to the hearts of Hong Kong people. That is certainly our attitude. That will also be my attitude in dealing with the question of constitutional development beyond 2007. I believe it is very important for this administration to work closely with all political parties concerned so that we stand a better chance of achieving two-thirds majority support of proposed changes to our electoral system beyond 2007.

Reporter: Do you think it is too late to conduct the consultation in 2004 or 2005?

SCA: I have always undertaken that we will conduct the work concerning constitutional development beyond 2007 with the aim of "widening the common ground and narrowing our differences" in the community and also within the Legislative Council. In the course of 2003, we have been able to make progress in internal research. We would act according to our undertaking to commence public consultation in 2004. Between now and 2006/2007, we have more than three years to deal with the issue of constitutional development. We will ensure there is adequate time for the public to give their views. It is an important question and we will consolidate (the views) and make sure that the public views obtained will constitute an important element in any final proposals that we put forth to the Legislative Council for consideration. We believe that we will have ample time for public consultation, for consolidation of views and for generation of legislative proposals.

Reporter: [On the Hon Emily Lau's motion]

SCA: Since reunification, in the last six years, the Hong Kong SAR Government together with the Hong Kong community, we have weathered quite a few storms. We have overcome the Asian financial crisis. More recently, we have dealt with SARS and the Government realised that it was important for us to widen the room for development for Hong Kong economically and that is why we have pursued the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement with the Mainland. We hope that it will ease the economic pressures in Hong Kong and that it will give more opportunities for both our manufacturing and service industries.

So far as constitutional development is concerned, it is my attitude that we must work closely with all political parties and Members in the Legislative Council so that within the community we can widen the common ground and narrow our differences and that will ensure we stand the best possible chance of securing consensus on the way forward for constitutional development beyond 2007.

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

End/Wednesday, October 8, 2003