In response to the remarks made by Legislative Councillor Anson Chan on RTHK’s “Letter to Hong Kong” broadcast this (January 20) 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) had set the direction and a clear timetable for attaining universal suffrage and was well received by the community, as reflected in opinion polls.
The spokesman referred to the findings of public opinion surveys conducted by the Hong Kong University (HKU) and the Chinese University (CU) this month. HKU’s survey had found that nearly half of the respondents considered the universal suffrage timetable acceptable while over 70 per cent of the respondents to the CU survey felt the same. Nearly 60 per cent of the respondents to the CU survey had confidence about implementing universal suffrage in Hong Kong according to the timetable set in the NPCSC Decision.
Also, the Chief Executive had reassured the Legislative Council, in no uncertain terms, last Thursday that the NPCSC Decision had constitutional status and that the universal suffrage timetable would not be set aside.
The spokesman pointed out, "Now that the timetable has been set, the HKSAR has to narrow differences and forge consensus on the roadmaps and electoral models in accordance with the NPCSC’s Decision and the procedures set out in the NPCSC’s Interpretation in April 2004 for amendments to the electoral methods for the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council.
“Discussion should first focus on the appropriate amendments to be made to the two electoral methods in 2012. Achieving consensus on this will allow the 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.
“We shall take things forward in three stages. First, we shall seek to increase the democratic elements in the two electoral methods in 2012. The fourth-term Chief Executive elected in 2012 will then be responsible for leading discussions and forging consensus for the electoral method for returning the Legislative Council in 2016 and universal suffrage for the Chief Executive in 2017. Finally, the Chief Executive returned by universal suffrage in 2017 will lead the HKSAR in implementing universal suffrage for returning the Legislative Council in 2020.
“For progress to be made, it is crucial that different parties should work together with the Government and adopt a rational and pragmatic approach to seek common ground while accommodating differences,” he said.
The spokesman added that work would commence soon after the Lunar New Year following the setting up of a task group on constitutional development under the Commission on Strategic Development.
As for Mrs Chan’s remark that “democracy is fundamental to the maintenance of our cherished rights and freedoms”, the spokesman emphasised, "After the Handover in 1997 Hong Kong people have continued to enjoy their rights and freedoms. The Basic Law already offers full protection for rights and freedoms. At the same time, the Government will continue to pursue the ultimate aim of universal suffrage in accordance with the Basic Law and the timetable determined by the NPCSC."
Ends/Sunday, January 20, 2008