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Transcript of interview by SCA (English only)

Following is the transcript of an interview given by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, after attending the Legislative Council meeting this morning (June 20) (English only):

Reporter: First of all, can you give a summary of your answers to the question?

Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: The main focus of today's question is how long public consultation exercises conducted by the Hong Kong Government normally last. In a nutshell, it varies from subject to subject. In many instances, the public consultation on policy issues we have conducted in the past five years last about three months or below three months. That covers the majority of these instances.

The focus of Legislative Councillors' questioning today is whether the public consultation period proposed for the Green Paper on constitutional development is appropriate. We believe that three months is appropriate because we have already conducted public discussions on universal suffrage issues in the Commission on Strategic Development and in the Legislative Council (LegCo) over the past 20 months. Now, that provides a foundation for us to take forward the public consultation exercise on the Green Paper when it is issued.

Reporter: Three months, starting from when?

Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: Our undertaking is that the Green Paper on constitutional development will issue in mid-2007. After the third-term HKSAR Government is formed, we will take a decision both on the Green Paper contents and on the plans for public consultation. But I believe that we will not have to wait too long.

Reporter: If you start it in July – July, August, September – a lot of people will be away during those periods. Would that be the best period to hold a public consultation?

Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: Well, I believe that, since we have already discussed many issues concerning universal suffrage for the Chief Executive (CE) and for the LegCo in the last 20 months that provides a good foundation on which we can make a start. I also believe that even during the summer, there will be many political parties, District Councils, different sectors of the community, which will be interested and which will express their views on these issues.

Reporter: Would you be susceptible to criticisms that after all these celebrations, all these studies, that if you have a three-month consultation in the middle of summer, you would be proceeding as ramming things through.

Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: This is just the beginning of another process on public consultation and discussion. The three-month public consultation period for the Green Paper is the starting point. Beyond the Green Paper, we will still need to go through various stages in order to reach new electoral formulas for Hong Kong. For example, at the next stage, the Government will have to propose recommended methods for returning the CE and for forming the LegCo. We will need to propose amendments to Annexes I and II of the Basic Law. Once we have made those proposals, we will need to discuss with the LegCo, with the public and with different sectors of the community. Furthermore, at the final stage, we will also need to enact local legislation and that will be another stage for us to discuss these specific details with the community.

Reporter: Would there an opportunity to amend, to change what's been put forward during those periods?

Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: Well, every time we put forward a proposal, we will take views very seriously from all quarters. Even in the context of the 2007/08 reforms, we put forward a firm set of recommendations, and having heard the views of the LegCo and the community in December 2005, we proposed an amended version of that package. So, I believe that in the next few years, we will have ample opportunities to discuss, to put forward different sets of ideas in order to help Hong Kong attain universal suffrage.

Ends/Wednesday, June 20, 2007