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Demand for immediate decision on universal suffrage timetable unrealistic

In response to the "Letter to Hong Kong" by the Honourable Lee Cheuk-yan broadcast on RTHK Radio 3 today (November 13), a Constitutional Affairs Bureau spokesman said that the demand for an immediate decision on a timetable for attaining universal suffrage was unrealistic. There was no need for the pan-democratic camp to insist on linking a decision on a timetable for universal suffrage with whether they would support the 2007/08 electoral package. The two issues could be dealt with separately.

The spokesman said, "At present, there are divergent views within the community on the timetable of attaining universal suffrage. It is impossible to reach a tripartite consensus among the LegCo, the CE and the NPCSC within a short period of time, regarding the timetable for attaining universal suffrage. The constitutional development issues, which the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) empowered the HKSAR Government to deal with in 2004, are confined to the election of the Chief Executive (CE) in 2007 and the forming of the Legislative Council (LegCo) in 2008."

He said that the HKSAR Government was clearly aware of the community's aspirations on universal suffrage.

"The HKSAR Government also recognise that we need to prepare for a road map and timetable. However, these issues would affect the future of the whole community. They should be dealt with seriously and methodically. We cannot fix a date for attaining universal suffrage in a vacuum. There is a need to have in-depth discussions on the model for the political structure after the implementation of universal suffrage.

"For example, we need to decide on a structure for the Legislative Council which suits the needs of Hong Kong. We need to decide how the views of different sectors, currently represented by the functional constituencies, will be addressed when the Legislative Council attains universal suffrage.

"The new model must be consistent with the Basic Law, the maintenance of capitalist system and balanced participation by different sectors of the community," he said.

"Therefore, we are establishing the Committee on Governance and Political Development under the Commission on Strategic Development, so that we, together with different political parties and sectors, can draw up a road map for attaining universal suffrage.

"Once we have got a road map, the timetable for attaining universal suffrage will fall into place quite naturally.

"There is no need for the pan-democratic camp to insist on linking a decision on a timetable for universal suffrage with whether they would support the 2007/08 electoral package. The two issues could be dealt with separately," the spokesman said.

He added, "Whilst we are dealing with the 2007 and 2008 elections to enhance their democratic elements so as to bring the sytems closer to the ultimate aim of universal suffrage, we can also be working on the road map for universal suffrage. There is no contradiction between the two cases. They can proceed in parallel."

He reiterated that the proposed 07/08 electoral package, which was arrived at after 18 months of wide consultation, already provided the highest possible degree of democratic elements within the framework laid down by the interpretation and decision made by the NPCSC in April 2004.

The Election Committee in 2007 would be expanded from 800 Members to 1600 members, with the number of directly elected Legislative Councillors increased from 30 to over 400 directly elected Legislative Councillors and District Councillors.

The Legislative Council would be expanded in 2008 from 60 Members to 70 Members; all 10 new Members would be returned by direct or indirect elections, bringing the district-level representation in the Legislative Council to almost 60 percent.

"We have noted that since the publication of the proposed package, the opinion polls conducted by the media and the universities have reflected that the package has received a significant degree of support and acceptance from the respondents.

"We hope the proposed package will be accepted by the Legislative Council and the community at large, so that Hong Kong's constitutional development can move forward substantively towards the ultimate aim of universal suffrage," the spokesman said.

Ends/Sunday, November 13, 2005