Following is a question by Hon Emily Lau and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (January 23):
At its Session on December 29 last year, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) decided that the selection of the fourth Chief Executive (CE) in 2012 shall not be implemented by the method of universal suffrage, and the election of the fifth term Legislative Council (LegCo) in 2012 shall not be implemented by the method of electing all the members by universal suffrage. The NPCSC Session is of the view that the fifth CE may be selected by universal suffrage in 2017, and that after the CE is selected by universal suffrage, all LegCo members may be elected by universal suffrage. Furthermore, the CE has affirmed in his report to the NPCSC that more than half of the public support the implementation of dual universal suffrage for the CE and the LegCo (dual universal suffrage) in 2012. In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:
(a) although the NPCSC has ruled out the implementation of dual universal suffrage in 2012, there are still more than four years between now and 2012, whether the CE will submit a report to the NPCSC again to reiterate that the implementation of dual universal suffrage in 2012 is supported by more than half of the public, and to urge the Central Authorities to respect the wish of the people of Hong Kong and allow the implementation of dual universal suffrage in 2012 in Hong Kong;
(b) how they ensure that the fifth CE will be selected by universal suffrage in 2017 and all LegCo members will be elected by universal suffrage in 2020; and
(c) how they ensure that the future models for selecting the CE and electing all LegCo members by universal suffrage will comply with the principle of universal and equal suffrage enshrined in international treaties on human rights?
The ultimate aim of electing the CE and all members of the LegCo by universal suffrage is prescribed by the Basic Law and must be attained. Our reply to the three parts of the question is as follows.
(a) On December 12, 2007, the CE submitted the report to the NPCSC, which had reflected faithfully the views of the Hong Kong community on the issue of universal suffrage to the Central Authorities. The CE stated clearly in the report that opinion polls had indicated that more than half of the respondents support implementation of universal suffrage for the CE and LegCo in 2012. The CE also made it clear to the Central Authorities that these views should be taken seriously and given consideration.
However, in LegCo, less than half of the Members support the implementation of universal suffrage for the CE and LegCo in 2012; half of all LegCo Members support that universal suffrage for the CE should be implemented first by no later than 2017, in 2017 or after 2017, and that universal suffrage for LegCo should follow thereafter. Also, motions have been passed in more than two-thirds of all District Councils, supporting that universal suffrage for the CE should be implemented first by no later than 2017 or in 2017, and that universal suffrage for the LegCo should follow thereafter. Different opinion polls have indicated that about 60 per cent of the respondents accept the implementation of universal suffrage for the CE in 2017, if this cannot be attained in 2012. Therefore, the CE stated in the report that implementing universal suffrage for the CE first by no later than 2017 will stand a better chance of being accepted by the majority in the community.
After considering the CE's report, the NPCSC made the Decision on December 29, 2007 making it clear that the CE may be elected by universal suffrage in 2017, and that after the CE is elected by universal suffrage, all members of the LegCo may also be elected by universal suffrage. By making clear the universal suffrage timetable for the HKSAR, the NPCSC has responded positively to the aspiration of the Hong Kong people for early implementation of universal suffrage. According to the poll conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong in January, 70 per cent of the public accept the NPCSC's Decision. The Hong Kong community should now roll forward the HKSAR's constitutional development in accordance with the NPCSC's Decision. It is not necessary for the CE to submit another report to the NPCSC.
(b) The NPCSC's Decision has made it clear that the CE may be elected by universal suffrage in 2017, and that after the CE has been elected by universal suffrage, all members of the LegCo may also be elected by universal suffrage. In other words, after the CE has been elected by universal suffrage in 2017, all members of the LegCo may be elected by universal suffrage in 2020.
In attaining universal suffrage, we should first deal with the issue of how to amend the two electoral methods for 2012. In this regard, we will set up a task group on constitutional development under the Commission on Strategic Development to focus on studying the relevant issues. The task group will be formed after the Chinese New Year this year to discuss the two electoral methods for 2012 under the framework set out by the NPCSC's Decision. We hope that the task group will conclude discussions around the middle of this year so that the HKSAR Government may consolidate options which may be considered for amending the two electoral methods for 2012 in the fourth quarter of this year, and conduct another round of public consultation as early as possible. Our aim is to settle the two electoral methods for 2012 within the tenure of the current-term HKSAR Government. We hope that this will lay a solid foundation for attaining universal suffrage for the CE in 2017 and for the LegCo in 2020.
Now that the NPCSC's Decision has made clear the timetable for universal suffrage, we believe that this will motivate different political parties and independent Members in the LegCo, as well as different sectors within the community to adopt a rational, pragmatic and accommodating attitude and to work together with the HKSAR Government towards securing a consensus for implementing universal suffrage for the CE in 2017 and for the LegCo in 2020.
(c) Hong Kong will attain universal suffrage because of the Basic Law, not the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the Covenant). This is because in 1976 when the Covenant 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 June 1997 and Article 39 of the Basic Law, this reservation continues to apply to the HKSAR.
We have made it clear in the Report on Public Consultation on Green Paper on Constitutional Development that any universal suffrage model should comply with the principles of universal and equal suffrage. As pointed out by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in its General Comments on Article 25, the Covenant does not seek to impose any specific electoral system. The Handbook of the United Nations has also stated that the system for each jurisdiction should be shaped by the particular needs, aspirations and historical realities of the people involved.
Ends/Wednesday, January 23, 2008