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SCA: Accusations against Govt by Yeung Sum unfounded and unreasonable

In response to the "Letter to Hong Kong" written by a Member of the Legislative Council (LegCo), Dr the Hon. Yeung Sum, and broadcast on RTHK Radio 3 this (October 19) morning, the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, said, " The accusations made by Dr Yeung against the HKSAR Government on the subject of constitutional development are unreasonable and unfounded."

Mr Lam said, "In dealing with the subject of constitutional development beyond 2007, we have acted all along according to the commitments we have made to LegCo and the Basic Law.

"We have already made it clear to LegCo that we will make a decision on the timetable for the review on constitutional development and public consultation before the end of 2003 and that we will make an announcement thereafter.

"We have also made it clear that we will commence public consultation in 2004, that we will, as necessary, deal with the procedures stipulated in the relevant Annex of the Basic Law in 2005 regarding any proposed changes to the electoral system, and that we expect that local legislation will be dealt with, as necessary, in 2006. Thus, we will be making full use of the next three years or so to complete the exercise. We have outlined the overall timeframe of the exercise. When the detailed timetable is announced, the LegCo and the public will be able to see clearly the manner in which they can take part in the discussion."

Mr Lam said, "Although the public consultation exercise has not yet commenced, we have been meeting with different organisations to listen to their views, including political parties, trade unions, academics and professional bodies.

"The HKSAR Government is committed to dealing with the question of constitutional development and democratic progress as a distinct and important issue on its own. We will not focus solely on the economy and leave democratic development to one side.

"We have been making efforts to revitalise the economy, for example, by concluding the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) and promoting tourism. This is in the interest of Hong Kong," he said.

"However, the HKSAR Government is also fully aware that the community has democratic aspirations. In dealing with the review, the HKSAR Government will endeavour to create new room for constitutional development beyond 2007.

"Both the Central People's Government and the HKSAR Government are addressing the issue of Hong Kong's constitutional development according to the Basic Law, while placing importance on Hong Kong's economic prospects. Dr Yeung has no ground for attempting to contrast the positions of the Central People's Government and the HKSAR Government on these fronts," Mr Lam said.

"Dr Yeung has suggested that we should conduct a referendum to determine the way forward on constitutional development. However, according to the relevant Annex of the Basic Law, for any changes to the electoral system to be effected after 2007, we need the endorsement of a two-thirds majority of all LegCo Members and the consent of the Chief Executive. LegCo Members have been elected to represent the community, and they are definitely in a proper position to do so on the important question of constitutional development."

Mr Lam said, "All Principal Officials and LegCo Members have undertaken to support the Basic Law on assuming office. Therefore, it is entirely legal and constitutional for both the HKSAR Government and LegCo to act according to the Basic Law in dealing with any proposals to change the electoral system after 2007.

"Dr Yeung and members of the democratic camp have proposed that the Chief Executive and all LegCo Members should be returned by universal suffrage in 2007 and 2008 respectively. This is an important viewpoint. There are other views being expressed in the community on how democratic development should be pursued. In the next few years, we will consider seriously all these proposals made by various LegCo Members, political parties and the community, and will ensure that there are ample opportunities for discussion before we take a final decision according to the Basic Law," he said.

Ends/Sunday, October 19, 2003