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Transcript of SCA's interview

Following is the transcript of an interview given by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (SCA), Mr Stephen Lam, after a joint meeting of the Legislative Council Panel on Constitutional Affairs and Panel on Home Affairs this (September 27) afternoon (English only) :

Reporter: In a nutshell, what's the proposal ?

SCA: We've put forth two proposals to the Legislative Council today. Firstly, we proposed to increase the number of elected seats for the 2003 District Council elections by 10, that is in respect of Yuen Long, Sai Kung and Islands Districts. The purpose is to look after the sharp and substantial increase in the population in these three new towns.

Secondly, we've also proposed to bring closer the publication of electoral registers for District Council and Legislative Council elections in future years, so as to narrow the gap between the publication of these electoral registers and the election dates to two months.

All these proposals have been put forth to cater to and in response to proposals made by the Legislative Council and District Councils.

Reporter: A few months ago, the LegCo was told you wanted to keep the number of seats at 390. You're proposing to go up 10, why?

SCA: This is because we have reviewed the matter. We recognised that in the three new towns of Tin Shui Wai, Tseung Kwan O and Tung Chung, there has been sharp and significant increase in population between 40 per cent and 120 per cent. This range of population increase is much more significant than the fluctuation of normal population changes in other districts, which are basically single digit or maximum 10 per cent, plus or minus.

Reporter: It's basically the same proposal put forward by the DAB. A coincidence ?

SCA: I don't think so. There have been representations made by District Councils of Yuen Long, of Sai Kung and of Islands District. These District Councils have 90 per cent of their members putting forth representations and the membership encompasses all political parties.

Reporter: If you need 10 more seats, why add 10 ? Why don't you just take away 10 out of 120 other appointed seats and redistribute them in that way ?

SCA: Actually the proposal which has been put forth to the Government by some people involves re-distributing elected seats from districts such as Wan Chai or from rural areas to these three new towns. And, I think the districts in Wan Chai and in the rural areas should be able to keep their representation. It has always been our policy for the 2003 District Council elections to maintain overall composition. And, that applies to elected seats, appointed seats and ex-officio rural committee seats.

Reporter: My question is not saying .. take seats away from people or ... them through election. My question is why don't you take 10 appointed seats and make them elected ?

SCA: That has not been an option which we have considered. It has been our policy to maintain the overall composition of District Councils in respect of elected seats, appointed seats and rural committee seats. But, in view of the sharp and significant increase in population in these three new towns, we have proposed to increase the number of elected seats by 10. And that is a step forward.

Reporter: Can you get this done in time for the next election ?

SCA: We believe that there is broad support in the Legislative Council for the Bill which we are going to gazette next week. This has taken into account the views across political spectrum, so we are confident that this will receive broad support.

Reporter: When are you going to get it done ?

SCA: The District Council elections in 2003 will take place in November next year.

Reporter: With the 10 seats ?

SCA: I hope we get support from Legislative Council and I believe we will.

End/Friday, September 27, 2002.