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NPCSC decision a major milestone in HK's constitutional development

   In response to the remarks made by Legislative Councillor Honourable Audrey Eu on RTHK's "Letter to Hong Kong" broadcast this (January 6) morning, a spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said that the Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC), in setting a clear universal suffrage timetable, had responded to the aspirations of Hong Kong people for attaining universal suffrage in accordance with the Basic Law and was a most significant step in our constitutional development.

     "The decision has also determined that appropriate amendments may be made to the two electoral methods for 2012. This will allow Hong Kong's electoral system to be further democratised with a view to paving the way for attaining universal suffrage for the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council respectively in 2017 and 2020. It is now up to the HKSAR to narrow differences and forge consensus on the roadmap and electoral models," he said.

     The spokesman added that the NPCSC's decision fully conformed with the relevant provisions in the Basic Law and the NPCSC's interpretation in April 2004 prescribing the procedures for amendments to the electoral methods for the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council.

     On questions regarding the formation of the nominating committee, what the democratic procedures for nomination would entail in attaining universal suffrage for the Chief Executive and how functional constituencies should be dealt with in implementing universal suffrage for the Legislative Council, the spokesman said that there would be ample room and time, over the next decade or so, for the HKSAR to discuss these issues.

     "The universal suffrage proposals will be compatible with the principles of 'universal' and 'equal' suffrage. When the time comes for the policy to be set on these crucial issues, different political parties and independent members in the Legislative Council will participate fully in the discussion and decision. The HKSAR Government will put forward specific proposals at the appropriate time and will do its utmost to forge a consensus with the political parties and legislators," he said.

     "As the Chief Executive has stated in his report to the NPCSC, setting the timetable for implementing universal suffrage for the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council can help promote the ultimate resolution of the issues relating to implementation of universal suffrage," the spokesman stressed.

     "Though the half-half ratio between geographical and functional constituency seats will be maintained in 2012, we will still have room to enhance the democratic elements in the Legislative Council elections. In 2005, we put forth such a set of proposals on the formation of the Fourth Term Legislative Council for 2008, which received 60% support among the public. We will consider carefully what proposals should be put forth for 2012."

     As to Ms Eu's reference to the application of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to the HKSAR, the spokesman reiterated that Hong Kong would attain universal suffrage because of the Basic Law, not the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

     "This is because in 1976 when the ICCPR was applied to Hong Kong, a reservation was made by the United Kingdom Government reserving the right not to apply sub-paragraph (b) of Article 25 to Hong Kong. In accordance with the notification given by the Central People's Government to the United Nations Secretary-General in 1997 and Article 39 of the Basic Law, this reservation continues to apply to the HKSAR after its establishment. However, when the Basic Law was enacted in 1990, the Central Authorities responded to the views of the Hong Kong community and stipulated universal suffrage as the ultimate aim to be attained," he said.

     "We are aware of the comments made by the United Nations Human Rights Committee regarding the reservation. While the Government respects the Committee, we do not accept those comments and do not agree that the Committee could determine the status of the reservation," the spokesman added.

Ends/Sunday, January 6, 2008