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Govt's proposed package on 2007/08 elections surely not step backward in democratic development

In response to the Honourable Lee Wing-tat's "Letter to Hong Kong" broadcast on RTHK Radio 3 this morning (December 18), a Government spokesman said that he was dismayed by Mr Lee’s suggestion that the Government’s proposed package for the 2007/08 elections was a step backward in democratic development.

The spokesman said, "Three basic facts speak for themselves. First, under current arrangements, District Councils (DC) only have 42 seats on the Election Committee (EC) which elects the Chief Executive (CE). Under the Government’s proposal, all DC members, including all 400 elected ones, will sit on the EC.

"The total effect is that over 25 per cent of the EC members, including Legislative Council (LegCo) Members returned by geographical constituencies and 400 elected DC members, will be returned through universal suffrage by over three million voters."

"Secondly, under current arrangements 50 per cent of LegCo seats are returned by universal suffrage. Under the proposal, of the 10 new seats for the LegCo, five will be returned through geographical constituencies, while the five new functional constituencies will be returned through elections by DC members from among themselves. Close to 60 per cent of all LegCo seats will be elected directly and indirectly by over three million voters."

"Thirdly, no new traditional functional constituencies will be created," he said.

It should be clear to any neutral observer that the proposed package would broaden substantially public participation in the two electoral processes within the framework of the Basic Law and the Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress in April 2004, the spokesman said.

"Different opinion polls conducted by different organisations have repeatedly shown that a majority of Hong Kong people support the package.

"They also agree that the electoral arrangements for 2007/08 should be handled separately from the issue of a timetable for universal suffrage. The public certainly do not wish to lose the opportunity to make progress on the electoral arrangements in 2007 and 2008.

"Public sentiments are very clear. We very much hope that LegCo Members who genuinely want democracy to progress in Hong Kong will heed their views," he said.

He said that it was misleading to suggest that the Government would put forth a new package of proposals if the one now put before the LegCo were voted down.

The package was drawn up after 18 months of open and extensive consultation in the community. It had sought to balance different views and interests. It was the most direct way to take Hong Kong one step forward towards the ultimate aim of universal suffrage.

He said, "If the LegCo voted down the proposal, Hong Kong would be further away from the ultimate aim of universal suffrage, not closer to it."

The Government was keenly aware of the community’s aspirations on universal suffrage. The Commission on Strategic Development had already commenced discussion on a roadmap for universal suffrage.

The Commission aimed at concluding discussions on the principles and concepts relating to universal suffrage by mid-2006, and on the design of a universal suffrage system for the CE and the legislature by early 2007, the spokesman said.

Ends/Sunday, December 18, 2005