Following is the transcript of the remarks by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in response to questions put by the media after attending the Legislative Council's Establishment Sub-committee meeting this morning (November 28) (English only):
Reporter: Can you respond to the criticism by the pan-democrats about this whole proposal, especially in the area that the whole thing is an attempt to stifle the development of democracy?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: I believe that the opposition camp has totally misunderstood and misrepresented the objectives of the proposals. By proposing that we should have two additional tiers of political appointments, namely Under-Secretaries and Political Assistants, we are bringing Hong Kong’s constitutional system and political arrangements closer to the western world. In democracies around the world, for example in the United Kingdom and in Australia, you will find two or three tiers of ministers and deputy ministers who can speak in parliament for the Government. The arrangements which we are proposing for Hong Kong now will enable more political talents to join from outside the Administration, to be involved in the Hong Kong Government’s work. This will also enable people in Hong Kong who are interested in pursuing a political career to have the opportunities either to stand for elections as Legislative Councillors or District Councillors or to be Secretaries or Under-Secretaries of Government. This will mean that in future, people who have political party backgrounds, or have other backgrounds, will be able to join the Government and have the opportunity to put into practise the ideas and the concepts they have for the betterment of Hong Kong.
Finally, I would also like to say that the Hong Kong Government is totally committed to pursuing universal suffrage in accordance with the Basic Law. The Chief Executive, Mr Donald Tsang, is the first leader of Hong Kong to have initiated a public consultation exercise on universal suffrage covering timetable, modalities and road map. We have every intention of securing a consensus and building arrangements which would enable Hong Kong to move forward towards the ultimate attainment of universal suffrage.
Reporter: Do you think you will be able to attract the appropriate talent to join these two new layers of Government?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: I believe we will be able to. There are many people in the political parties, in the professions and in other occupations who want to serve Hong Kong. In recent years, you have seen more people joining political parties and more think tanks being established. This is part of the maturing process of the politics of Hong Kong.
Reporter: Will there be any open recruitment process like that for the civil service?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: The recruitment of Under-Secretaries and Political Assistants will be distinct from that of civil servants. In jurisdictions around the world, members of the cabinet and their deputies are invited to join the Government on the basis of their readiness to support the election manifesto of the political leader concerned. At the same time, of course, they must be people of talent and ability.
Ends/Wednesday, November 28, 2007