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Government's response to Anson Chan's open letter to CE

In response to Mrs Anson Chan's open letter to the Chief Executive, a spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau made the following statement today (August 4):

     "Firstly, the publication of the Green Paper marks the delivery of the Chief Executive's electoral promise. This fully demonstrates leadership on the part of the HKSAR Government in that we have, for the first time in Hong Kong's history, set out methodically the key issues to be addressed for consensus on universal suffrage to be attained. These are consolidated from over 300 submissions we have received. It would not do justice to these submissions if we only highlight, say, three proposals received from the major political parties.

     In total, there are several key issues to be addressed, including the number of members of the nominating committee and its composition, the number of Chief Executive (CE) candidates to be put forth for election by universal suffrage, how the current functional constituency elections can be replaced, and the timetable for implementing universal suffrage.

     We have set out for the public three clear choices on these issues. Once consensus on these issues emerges, implementation of universal suffrage can follow.
     Secondly, to implement universal suffrage, we must comply with the Basic Law i.e. securing two-thirds majority support in the Legislative Council (LegCo), consent of the CE and endorsement by the National People's Congress Standing Committee.

     We also hope that any mainstream proposal can attract 60 per cent public support. However, it would not be possible for any model to be taken forward just on the basis of 60 per cent public support. Two-thirds majority support in LegCo is the first constitutional requirement to fulfill.

     Thirdly, Hong Kong will have universal suffrage because of the Basic Law, not the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

     Mrs Chan is fully aware of the background that in 1976 when the ICCPR was applied to Hong Kong, a reservation on Article 25(b) was made. She is also aware that, in accordance with the notification given by the Central People's Government to the United Nations Secretary General in 1996 and Article 39 of the Basic Law, the reservation continues to apply.

     However, in 1990 when the Basic Law was enacted, the Central Authorities responded to the views of Hong Kong community and stipulated universal suffrage as the ultimate aim to be attained. Thus, the Basic Law is actually more progressive than the Joint Declaration which made no reference to universal suffrage.

     Fourthly, the principles of "meeting the interests of different sectors of society" and "facilitating the development of the capitalist economy" are derived from the statement made by Mr Ji Peng-fei to the National People's Congress when the Basic Law was enacted in 1990. Therefore, they have a constitutional basis.

     Fifthly, we will continue to assess whether a mainstream proposal is feasible by referring to surveys indicating whether any proposal stands a good chance of attracting 60 per cent public support and of securing two-thirds majority support in the LegCo.

     The current situation is entirely different from that in 1988 when the Hong Kong community considered the question of introducing direct elections to the former LegCo. We now have the Basic Law which stipulates that we should secure two-thirds majority support in the LegCo as the starting point for amending the electoral method. We can, and should, act according to this constitutional and objective requirement.

     All submissions received will be made public. However, the submissions of specific organisations or individuals cannot override the consensual view of the community, as reflected in the opinion polls and the position of the LegCo as a whole.

     It would not be necessary to establish an independent assessment agency. The opinion polls conducted by universities and think tanks are independent and transparent. The positions taken by LegCo Members and political parties will be public. Thus, the process of public scrutiny will in itself be the best guarantee."

Ends/Saturday, August 4, 2007
Issued at HKT 18:40