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Transcript of Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Following is the transcript of Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, at a standup briefing after his visit to the main polling station of the Kwun Tong District Council (DC) Kai Yip Constituency By-election this (May 20) morning:

Reporter: Do you think the seven-month term is a bit too short for District Councillors? Do you think that the four-month period needs to be reviewed?

Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: The current provision in the District Councils Ordinance is that if there were a remaining term of four months, we should conduct a by-election. That has been our arrangement for many years and this has been built on the basis that DCs represent an important element in Hong Kong's representative structure. Also, District Councillors perform (a useful) role both within the DC and also in the wider context of the constituency (they represent). For example, very often we notice that there are residents who need the service of various Government departments, but they do not know how to gain access, and they approach District Councillors for assistance. So it is very necessary for us to recognise the importance of representation of the people through District Councillors, and we have always undertaken by-elections within the time frame stipulated by legislation. We shall continue to do so.

I would like to take this opportunity to respond to a "Letter to Hong Kong" by the Honourable Albert Chan this morning. Mr Chan referred to the relationship between the executive and the legislature under the Hong Kong constitutional system.

I would like to say that the Hong Kong electoral system is a bit like what we see in the United States. The Chief Executive (CE) is returned through one route, and the legislature is returned through another route. This means that the Hong Kong system is not a (Westminster) Parliamentary democracy system. It is not a system whereby the majority government is formed by the largest political party in the legislature. However, in the same way as the American president and his cabinet have to secure support from Congress, here in Hong Kong, the HKSAR Government has to secure sufficient support from different parties in the Legislative Council (LegCo). In the last 10 years, on the whole, we have been able to pass the vast majority of legislation and the budgets we put forth. The Government has gained passage and gained support in the LegCo.

There are only two instances in which we have not been able to gain sufficient support. One instance is the draft legislation on Basic Law Article 23 implementation. And the second instance is when we proposed the constitutional development package for 2007/08 in 2005; we secured simple majority support, but we missed two-thirds majority by a few votes.

I would like to emphasise that that the HKSAR Government has been able to make use of provisions in the Basic Law to strengthen co-operation between the executive and the legislature.

First of all, the CE has appointed different representatives of various political parties to the Executive Council.

Secondly, under our system of political appointment, we can appoint people who have political party background to become Secretaries of the Government.

And thirdly, during the second half of 2007, we intend to roll forward recommendations on implementing two additional layers of political appointment, including deputy directors of bureau and political assistants.

We very much hope that Mr Albert Chan, other members of the opposition party, and other political parties in the LegCo, will lend support to such proposals which will enable us to strengthen the link between the executive and the legislature, also to strengthen our co-operation between the Government and various political parties.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Sunday, May 20, 2007