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Government to continue to promote constitutional development in accordance with Basic Law

On the "Letter to Hong Kong" by the Honourable Dr Kwok Ka-ki broadcast on RTHK Radio 3 today (October 24), a spokesman for the Constitutional Affairs Bureau responded as follows:
The government will continue to promote constitutional development in accordance with the Basic Law and the decision of April 26 made by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC).

The government has already commenced public consultation with regard to the methods for the selection of the Chief Executive in 2007 and formation of the Legislative Council in 2008. Since its establishment in January 2004, the Constitutional Development Task Force has issued three reports. Its Third Report, published in May, outlined nine areas for the public to consider how the two electoral methods could be opened up further.

The task force is to publish its Fourth Report based on the public views collected before the end of this year. This will facilitate further in-depth and comprehensive discussion within the community.

The task force hopes that by mid-2005 a consensus will emerge from the community, and we could then release the Fifth Report to set out a mainstream proposal to facilitate further public discussion.

We hope that, once we have secured consensus, we can proceed with the amendment of Annexes I and II of the Basic Law and thereafter deal with local legislation.

Moreover, the spokesman said that the political structure in Hong Kong already had a strong democratic element. Half of the seats for the third term Legislative Council were returned by geographical direct elections. Over 1.7 million registered voters cast their votes.

In accordance with the Basic Law, the government is accountable to the Legislative Council. By constitutional design, the executive and the legislative authorities operate on the principle of checks and balances. Any government bill or budgetary proposal will require Legislative Council's approval before implementation.

On the procedures for voting on bills and motions in the Legislative Council, Annex II of the Basic Law provides that the passage of bills and motions introduced by individual members shall require a simple majority vote of each of the groups of members returned by geographical constituencies through direct elections and by functional constituencies.

The spokesman said this ensured that such motions or bills could be promoted only after obtaining the support of different sectors of the community as represented by the members. It also put into practice the principle of "balanced participation".

He added that the NPCSC's decision on April 26 provided that the voting procedures for the fourth term LegCo in 2008 would remain unchanged.

Hong Kong's core values upon which our governance is built include an accountable, professional and transparent public administration system, the rule of law, freedoms and liberties and an independent judiciary, which upholds rights and freedoms.

The spokesman said that these core values, established with the collaborative efforts of the government and the community over the years, provided a firm foundation for promoting Hong Kong's future development. He said that in pursuing constitutional development towards the ultimate aim of universal suffrage, we should ensure that the integrity of these institutions and core values would be maintained.

Ends/Sunday, October 24, 2004