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Government's response to remarks made by Hon Emily Lau on Chief Executive election

Commenting on the remarks made by the Hon Emily Lau on the Chief Executive (CE) election in her "Letter to Hong Kong" broadcast on RTHK today (February 25), a Constitutional Affairs Bureau spokesman said that the CE election next month would be held in accordance with the Basic Law and the relevant electoral legislation, and in an open, fair and just manner. Regrettably, Ms Lau had made unfounded allegation that the Government wished to minimize the number of protestors on election day, and that the media had churned out endless propaganda about the buoyant economy.

"The CE election has constitutional foundation and legitimacy. It is prescribed in the Basic Law that the CE shall be elected by a broadly representative Election Committee (EC) comprising 800 members.

"Members of the EC represent different sectors of the community, including the business, professional, labour, social services, religious and political sectors. The great majority of the EC members are returned through elections," said the spokesman.

"We are surprised that, without any factual basis, Ms Lau alleged that it was the Government's intention to minimize the number of protestors by using the AsiaWorld-Expo as the polling and counting station for the CE election.

"The Registration and Electoral Office (REO) started, as early as in July 2005, its search for a suitable venue for the CE election to be held in 2007.

"When identifying a suitable venue, REO is mindful of the need for the area to be large enough to accommodate a polling station, a counting station, a working area for the media, and a seating area for members of the public who wish to observe the counting of votes. Also, the venue should be available not only on the polling day, but also a few days before and after the polling day.

"It turned out that the AsiaWorld-Expo is the only suitable venue available," he said.

The spokesman said that the Government would strive to ensure that the practical arrangements for the CE election could facilitate EC members to participate in the voting.

"We understand that this is the first time the AsiaWorld-Expo will be used as a polling and counting station for an election, and that EC members may not be familiar with the location. Hence, the Electoral Affairs Commission has decided to extend the time for the first round of voting from one to two hours," he said.

The spokesman said that there was also no factual basis for Ms Lau to allege that the media had churned out endless propaganda on the buoyant economy, and that the Mainland Authorities played a pivotal role in this.

"It is an established fact that Hong Kong has been enjoying renewed economic growth and that the employment situation has improved. The media will naturally report on these developments, which are matters of public interest.

"The Central Authorities has consistently supported the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government to govern Hong Kong in accordance with the law. The HKSAR Government will ensure that the CE election is held in accordance with the Basic Law and the relevant electoral legislation, and in an open, fair and just manner."

With regard to Hong Kong's constitutional development, the spokesman said that both the Central Authorities and the HKSAR Government were fully committed to achieving the ultimate aim of universal suffrage as enshrined in the Basic Law.

He said that the proposed package for the electoral methods for 2007/08 put forth by the Government in 2005 would have greatly enhanced the democratic elements in the electoral methods for election of the CE and the Legislative Council (LegCo), and brought significant progress to Hong Kong's constitutional development through incorporating District Council members in the EC and enabling them to elect more representatives to the LegCo.

"The package had the support of the majority in the community, as well as the support of more than half of all LegCo Members. Regrettably, Ms Lau and other LegCo Members of the opposition camp decided to vote against the package, and this prevented Hong Kong’s electoral systems from making progress."

The spokesman said that the Commission on Strategic Development was now having substantive discussion on possible models for implementing universal suffrage for the CE and the LegCo.

"We will summarize the discussions of the Commission and produce a report. It will be submitted to the Central Authorities.

"We hope that this can provide a basis for the third term HKSAR Government to continue to take forward Hong Kong's further democratization," the spokesman said.

Ends/Sunday, February 25, 2007