|LC: SCA moves second reading of Chief Executive Election (Amendment) (Term of Office of the Chief Executive) Bill
Following is the translation of the speech delivered by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, to move the Second Reading of the Chief Executive Election (Amendment) (Term of Office of the Chief Executive) Bill at the Legislative Council today (April 6):
I move that the Chief Executive Election (Amendment) (Term of Office of the Chief Executive) Bill ("the Bill") be read the second time.
The purpose of the Bill is to provide that the term of a new Chief Executive ("CE") elected pursuant to Article 53(2) of the Basic Law ("BL") shall be the remainder of the term of the preceding CE.
Background and Justifications
Madam President, the office of the CE became vacant on March 12, 2005. Pursuant to Article 53 of the BL, a new CE shall be selected within six months. In accordance with the relevant provisions of the Chief Executive Election Ordinance ("CEEO"), the election of the new CE shall be held on July 10, 2005 (Sunday). We shall make the necessary electoral arrangements in accordance with the relevant provisions of the CEEO and related subsidiary legislation to ensure that the election is conducted in a fair and open manner.
At the same time, we have to clarify the term of office of the new CE who filled the office of the CE which became vacant during the term. In this regard, the Administration has stated its position at the press conference on March 12 and at the meeting of the House Committee of the Legislative Council ("LegCo") on March 15 i.e. the term of office of the new CE returned in a by-election should be the remainder of the term of the preceding CE. The Administration reiterated its stance and the related justifications at the LegCo adjournment debate on March 16. We also briefed Members on the content of the Bill at the meeting of the Panel on Constitutional Affairs on March 21.
Let me briefly set out the main justifications for the position taken by the Administration:
Firstly, there is no direct link between Article 53(2) of the BL and Article 46. Instead, Article 53(2) specifically refers to Article 45 of the BL. Article 45 refers to Annex I which prescribes the specific method for selecting the CE.
Annex I to the BL stipulates that the CE shall be elected by an 800-member Election Committee ("EC"). The duty of the current EC is to elect the second term CE, whose term of office runs from 2002 to 2007.
Article 7 of Annex I also stipulates that if there is a need to amend the method for selecting the CE for the terms subsequent to the year 2007, such amendments must be made with the agreement of a two-thirds majority of all the members of the LegCo, the CE and the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress ("NPCSC"). According to the design of the BL, the method for selecting the CE in or subsequent to the year 2007 can be further opened up to allow for wider public participation, in the light of the actual situation in Hong Kong and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. This design should not be frustrated simply because a vacancy in the office of the CE has arisen during the term.
Secondly, the Decision of the NPCSC on April 26 last year specifically mentioned "the election of the CE of the HKSAR for the third term to be held in the year 2007 ...". The NPCSC has affirmed that the election of the CE to be held in 2007 is the election of the CE for the third term. According to the Administration's proposal, the new CE election will fill the office left vacant by the CE for the second term. It is not an election of the CE for the third term. This is consistent with the interpretation of the term of office the CE under the Decision; it is also consistent with the relevant provisions in Annex I.
Thirdly, when Article 53(2) of the Basic Law was first drafted, the wording "new CE" was used. It was subsequently changed to "the CE of a new term". But at a later stage, the wording was reverted to "new CE". This demonstrates that Article 53(2) does not provide for a new term to commence afresh.
The SAR Government's position that the new CE shall serve the remainder of the term of the preceding CE is based on a thorough understanding of the provisions of the BL and the legislative intent. The Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPCSC made a statement on March 12 in support of the position of the HKSARG.
Madam President, since work for the legislative amendments must tie in with the CE election, the legislative timetable is quite tight. We hope that scrutinisation of the Bill can commence early. The SAR Government will work closely with the Bills Committee to facilitate its work.
Thank you, Madam President.
Ends/Wednesday, April 6, 2005