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Confident to set Hong Kong's electoral systems on the right course beyond 2007: SCA

The Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, said today (November 15) that he was confident that Hong Kong would be able to rise to the challenge of setting Hong Kong's electoral systems on the right course beyond 2007.

With the ingenuity, determination and good sense of Hong Kong people, we managed to resolve a whole range of important and complex issues in the run-up to 1997 and create a smooth transition. "With the same distinctive set of Hong Kong values, we should be able to deal with and rise to the challenge of setting clear directions for the electoral reforms beyond 2007," said Mr Lam.

Mr Lam was speaking at a forum organised by Justice, the Hong Kong section of the International Commission of Jurists.

Mr Lam said that the Basic Law had laid down a blueprint for constitutional development in the first 10 years after reunification. Beyond 2007, it provided that the ultimate aim was to elect the Chief Executive and all members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage.

He added that the Basic Law also provided that we should move towards that ultimate aim in the light of the actual situation in Hong Kong and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress.

"Our challenge is two-fold. We need to find a way within these parameters which is in the overall interest of Hong Kong, and to build consensus on the way forward," said Mr Lam.

He dispelled the myth that the Government did not want any change to be made to the electoral systems beyond 2007.

In his National Day address, the Chief Executive stated that it was the clear duty of the current Administration to pursue democratic advancement according to the Basic Law.

It is prescribed in the Basic Law that we should make gradual and orderly progress in constitutional development. "So we must continue to roll forward electoral reforms and to press ahead," he said.

Mr Lam also dispelled the myth that Hong Kong people were politically apathetic.

The current voter registration rate of 66% was a significant number and showed that Hong Kong people did care about Hong Kong's public affairs, he said

The demonstration on July 1 also showed that Hong Kong people valued the freedoms of Hong Kong, that they treasured the rule of law, and that they had democratic aspirations, Mr Lam added.

Mr Lam said that he hoped many registered electors would come out to vote in the District Council Election on November 23 and that the turnout rate would be higher than that in 1999.

"The more people who come out to vote, the more enhanced will the representativeness of the members elected be. It will also have a positive bearing on Hong Kong's long term democratic progress," Mr Lam said.

On the third myth that political parties in Hong Kong only have a limited role to play in Hong Kong's political process, Mr Lam described it as a "chicken and egg" situation.

"I believe, if we can make more room available both for political parties and independent candidates to take part in electoral politics, they will have a larger role to play in Hong Kong's public affairs and political development in the long run," Mr Lam said.

He said that he hoped to work together with the political parties and independent legislators in dealing with constitutional development beyond 2007.

During the Forum, Mr Lam also exchanged views with the participants on the question of the nominating committee under Article 45 of the Basic Law.

Mr Lam said, "The salient points about the nominating committee are clear -

- first, the committee is to be the institution responsible for nomination of candidates when Hong Kong constitutional development has reached the stage for introducing election of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage;

- second, it has to be broadly representative; and

- third, it has to go through democratic procedures in nominating candidates."

Mr Lam emphasized that any proposed amendment to the method for the selection of the Chief Executive "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."

Ends/Saturday, November 15, 2003