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SCA responds to views on further development of political appointment system

In response to press enquiries, a spokesman for the Constitutional Affairs Bureau said that the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, met the group, Power for Democracy, today (November 27) to exchange views on the Consultation Document on Further Development of the Political Appointment System.

Mr Lam thanked the Power for Democracy for presenting their views on the consultation document. He said that their submission would be treated as one of the submissions received during the public consultation.

At the meeting, Mr Lam said, "Even though the Chief Executive (CE) and the Legislative Council are yet to be returned by universal suffrage, the conditions in Hong Kong are suitable for further developing the political appointment system, given Hong Kong's open and transparent environment.

"Through the system, any future CE could, like other political leaders around the world, have sufficient room to form his political team to assist him in realising the electoral undertakings and delivering policies, and to better respond to the community's aspirations.

"Further developing the political appointment system could also complement Hong Kong's constitutional development and the further opening up of the electoral system," he said.

Mr Lam said that since the introduction of the political appointment system in 2002, the system had generally been working effectively.

As for the CE, Principal Officials served a five-year term, and thus could better assist the CE in implementing his policy agenda. Further, politically appointed Principal Officials were accountable to the public and had to assume responsibilities over policy matters under their purview.

He said, "Indeed, on previous occasions, for example, the SARS incident, politically appointed Principal Officials had borne the brunt of political responsibilities.

"Currently, people with political party backgrounds can already be appointed as Secretaries of the Government. In expanding the political appointment system, we hope to attract talent from a variety of backgrounds through the system.

"Potential candidates can include those with political party, business, professional, academic or civil service backgrounds. This will broaden the perspectives of, and input for, the work of the Government. The Government would certainly take this into careful consideration in appointing candidates," Mr Lam said.

"All along, the Government has been committed to creating an environment that is conducive to the development of political parties. Opening up positions in the Government can help increase opportunities for political participation.

"In future, apart from taking part in elections, public-spirited individuals may join the Government.

"At the same time, we will continue to take forward discussions on constitutional development. We are pursuing work on a dual track, because in the long run, work on both fronts is complementary. Both will facilitate improvement in governance," he said.

Mr Lam added that, at the district level, the Government had earlier on put forward a plan to enhance the roles and functions of the District Councils.

"Further, we shall be introducing a financial assistance scheme for the 2007 District Council election. We will continue to implement measures to encourage members of the public to participate in public service, to enhance channels for such participation and to provide a broader career path for these individuals," he said.

Public consultation on the proposals on the further development of the political appointment system will end on November 30, 2006. The Government will consider carefully the views received during the consultation period, with a view to announcing the proposed way forward within the first half of 2007.

Ends/Monday, November 27, 2006