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Amendment to method for selecting third term Chief Executive may be considered if there is need: SCA

The Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, today (November 12) stated, "If there is a need, amendment to the method for selecting the third term Chief Executive may be considered."

"The Constitutional Affairs Bureau has conducted detailed internal research on the scope of paragraph 7 of Annex I to the Basic Law, and has sought legal advice from the Department of Justice. Our conclusion is that if there is a need, amendment to the method for selecting the third term Chief Executive may be considered.

"However, any proposal put forth must be handled in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress and in the light of the actual situation in Hong Kong as stipulated in the Basic Law, and according to the procedures and requirements set out in Article 45 and Annex I of the Basic Law," said Mr Lam.

Mr Lam explained the above position at the Legislative Council meeting today.

"I trust that a clear view from the Government on paragraph 7 of Annex I to the Basic Law will assist parties concerned in the future handling of the issue of constitutional development," he added.

In response to Members, Mr Lam said, "The Chief Executive has stated that it is the clear duty of the current Administration to pursue democratic advancement according to the Basic Law."

"Being the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, I will apply myself fully in discharging this duty," Mr Lam said.

"The Administration will make full use of the coming three years to carry out the review on constitutional development and to conduct public consultation in a serious and proper manner," Mr Lam said.

According to Mr Lam, the Administration will -

(a) commence public consultation on constitutional development within 2004, and start listening to and gathering views early next year;
(b) as necessary, deal with the procedures stipulated in the relevant Annexes of the Basic Law in 2005; and
(c) as necessary, enact any local legislation in 2006.

Mr Lam reiterated that the Government would make a decision before the end of this year on the detailed timetable, and thereafter report to the Legislative Council.

Mr Lam emphasized that at this stage the Government did not have any pre-determined package of proposals or conclusion in respect of the constitutional development after 2007.

"We consider that the proper and responsible way is to consult widely and to consolidate the views gathered from various sectors of the community, before putting forth our final recommendations," he said.

Mr Lam said that in order to promote consensus on constitutional development, he would encourage all parties of the Legislative Council to communicate with one another frankly, and be prepared to listen to different views with an open mind.

Mr Lam pointed out that the Hon James To's motion appeared to have pre-determined an outcome for the consultation.

"We should not rule out other possible options or conclusions before the commencement of the public consultation exercise," he said.

He pointed out that Hong Kong was a pluralistic society, and certainly different views had emerged in respect of the pace of constitutional development.

In respect of the District Councils, Mr Lam reiterated an earlier undertaking by the Government to conduct a review of the functions, role and composition of the Councils, after the elections this year.

In conclusion, Mr Lam reiterated that, in dealing with the subject of constitutional development, the Government would adopt an open and receptive attitude.

He also believed that the Legislative Council and the political parties would continue to embrace the spirit of "building consensus" in dealing with the subject.

Ends/Wednesday, November 12, 2003