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SCA: Role of political parties

The Government hoped that it could work together with political parties and Legislative Councillors to face and overcome important challenges including the restructuring of the economy and the fiscal deficit, which Hong Kong was facing, the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam said today (November 23).

Speaking at a Radio Television Hong Kong Chinese radio programme, "The 10th Anniversary of the Party Line", Mr Lam said that the Government implemented the Accountability System on July 1. This system and political party development complemented one another.

He said, "The leaders of two political parties have been appointed to the Executive Council, thereby broadening the participation of political parties in the governance of Hong Kong, and the formulation of government policies and public affairs.

"Standing in the forefront of the community, political parties and groupings are in a premium position to gauge public opinion.

"Through them and other channels, the Government can feel the pulse of the community and respond to the needs of the public. The Government would continue to communicate closely with political parties."

Mr Lam said that following the introduction of direct elections into the Legislative Council, the proportion of seats in the legislature filled by their members had been on the rise, increasing from one-sixth in 1991 to two-thirds at present. Thus, political parties had made practical progress and established a foundation.

He said that ideas put forth by political parties were valuable in facilitating the governance of Hong Kong.

"For example in 2001, the then 'eight-party coalition' jointly put forth a seven-point package.

"The Government responded positively to these proposals in the Policy Address. We, amongst other things, decided to offer rates rebates and proposed to create over 30,000 jobs," he said.

Mr Lam said that, in the longer term, as Hong Kong's constitutional institutions continued to evolve according to the principle of gradual and orderly progress, political parties would have more room to develop in Hong Kong's political landscape.

However, there would still be room for independent candidates and small political groups to take part in elections, he added.

Mr Lam pointed out that the memberships of political parties in Hong Kong were relatively small, ranging from several hundred to several thousand.

He hoped that the parties would be able to attract a wider membership from different walks of life, so that they could have a broader and deeper base in the community.

He said, "It is our shared mission to further the constitutional development of Hong Kong. Political party development and the Accountability System are still relatively new to Hong Kong.

"I hope that both of these institutions will continue to flourish, support our constitutional system, send deep roots into our community and bear fruit for the people of Hong Kong," Mr Lam said.

End/Saturday, November 23, 2002.