|SCA speaks on discussions at Governance and Political Development Committee meeting
Following is a transcript of a media briefing by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, after the meeting of the Committee on Governance and Political Development of the Commission on Strategic Development today (April 12) (English portion):
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: I would say that after today's meeting, there are three main points that we can draw conclusions (on) with regard to the question of universal suffrage for the Chief Executive (CE).
Firstly, most members of the Commission on Strategic Development (the Commission) suggested that if we are to form a nomination committee in accordance with Article 45 of the Basic Law, then we should model that committee on the composition of the Election Committee (EC). However, the total number of members, the proportional representation among different sectors and sub-sectors can be varied.
Secondly, as regards the question of nomination threshold, there is still no main-stream opinion. There are those that suggested that may be we should stick to the current threshold of one-eighth. There are those who suggested that may be we should increase the threshold to one quarter or one-fifth.
A new point has been made today and that is, according to Article 45 of the Basic Law, we should establish a nominating committee with broad representation and that the nomination process itself should be democratic.
What does this democratic process involve? Does this involve potential candidates presenting their election manifestos before the nominating committee? These are the sort of fresh questions raised today.
The third point which is pretty clear is that among members of the Commission, there is a clear recognition that we can make more progress with regard to implementation of universal suffrage for the CE, but that it is relatively more difficult to achieve such consensus for implementing universal suffrage for the Legislative Council (LegCo).
And, therefore, the clear conclusion is perhaps we should go for implementation of universal suffrage for the CE first and that for the LegCo can follow later. However, I wish to emphasise that at this point in time, the HKSAR Government has not yet drawn any conclusion. We still hope to narrow differences among different political parties, different groups and different individuals with regard to the question of the future of functional constituencies (and therefore the question of implementing universal suffrage for the LegCo).
I should also add that even though we have not yet set the course and outlined the parameters for presenting the three types of models for implementing universal suffrage in the Green Paper, we have made clear that there are going to be four criteria.
Firstly, whichever models we are going to set out in the Green Paper have to be consistent with the Basic Law. And no amendments to the main provisions of the articles of the Basic Law should be required.
Secondly, (we hope that) any proposal put forth should attract majority support among Hong Kong people.
Thirdly, we hope that any proposal put forth will stand a reasonable chance of securing two-thirds majority in the LegCo.
And fourthly, we also hope that any proposal put forth will stand a good chance of being considered seriously by the Central Government. Only then would we be able to attain universal suffrage for Hong Kong.
Reporter: Does that mean that Anson Chan's proposal or the proposal adopted by the democrats are not likely to be included in the Green Paper because they might not be able to meet all the criteria?
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: I would say that all the proposals and packages of recommendations we have received up till now, provided that they are consistent with the Basic Law, we would include in the context of the Green Paper. But for now, we have not yet decided which three types of models we would present for public consultation in the Green Paper. But we would definitely make a full and comprehensive presentation of all the packages and proposals which we have received from many months before (now and) until June this year.
Reporter: … in the Basic Law ….
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: I think the proposal put forth by the 21 Legislative Councillors accepts that there should be a nominating committee established according to Article 45 of the Basic Law. So therein lies some common ground for us to proceed. We will present all these packages (which have been put to us) faithfully in the context of the Green Paper.
Reporter: You said that the proposal must have a good chance of being considered by the Central Government. Do you feel that it is perhaps jumping the gun that this criteria might discourage certain proposals that Beijing may feel to be more radical than others?
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: I think so far as we are concerned at this stage the discussion on different models for implementing universal suffrage is still in the formative stage. We welcome proposals of all types. At the same time, we work as hard as we can to narrow differences among different political parties and community groups, so that we stand a better chance of achieving both consensus within Hong Kong community and between Hong Kong and Beijing.
Reporter: … Do you mean to merge all those proposals and then made it into three in future?
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: I would say that whatever proposals and packages we have received to date and by mid-June we would reflect very faithfully in the context of the Green Paper. But as for what three types of proposals we will present in the Green Paper as possibilities for implementing universal suffrage for the CE and for implementing universal suffrage for the LegCo, we haven't come to a view yet.
Also, the question of merging different proposals, I think, would be more relevant after we have concluded the three-month consultation period, because at that point in time, we would have to see whether there is a possibility and whether there is sufficient foundation, for us to conclude that a main-stream view has emerged among Hong Kong community. That is as far as I can go for today. If I go any further, I would be somehow, somewhat speculating into the future.
Reporter: Mr Lam, I don't think you have answered the question I asked earlier ... , which is your criteria that the proposal would have a good chance of being considered by the Central Government. Do you feel that this is perhaps jumping the gun that setting out this criteria would discourage any proposal that in Beijing's view would be too radical?
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: Actually the provision is very clear in the Basic Law. Any proposal for amending the electoral methods for returning the CE and for forming the LegCo would have to be endorsed by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. Anybody or any particular parties who put forth such proposals would fully recognise that is the constitutional provision in the Basic Law. That provision has been in existence since 1990. Hitherto, it has not stopped any political party from proposing that we should aim to secure early implementation of universal suffrage, both for the CE and for the LegCo. We are just stating what is already in the Basic Law and we are just reminding everybody that aside from securing consensus within Hong Kong community, between Hong Kong and Beijing, we also need to attain consensus.
Reporter: Do you think the proposal act to weed out any such proposal in the consideration?
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: I think any proposal which stands a good chance of being considered favourably both in Hong Kong and in Beijing is in Hong Kong's interest. I also think that hitherto no political parties, members of the opposition camp included, have been restrained from putting forth any recommendations or packages for implementing universal suffrage. Hong Kong is a free society. It is open. So long as we have a hard working legislature and a free press, this discussion will go on. And I also hope that one day we can conclude the discussions and bring Hong Kong forward in terms of achieving democracy.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion.)
Ends/Thursday, April 12, 2007