In response to the remarks made by Legislative Councillor Mandy Tam on RTHK's "Letter to Hong Kong" broadcast today (March 30), a spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said the Basic Law had prescribed for the first time in Hong Kong's history universal suffrage as the ultimate aim for Hong Kong's constitutional development, and a timetable for attaining universal suffrage had already been determined.
The spokesman said, "According to the Decision adopted by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) on December 29, 2007, while universal suffrage is not to be implemented in 2012, appropriate amendments consistent with the principle of gradual and orderly progress may be made to the methods for electing the Chief Executive (CE) and the Legislative Council (Legco).
"The Decision of the NPCSC (the Decision) also made clear the timetable for attaining universal suffrage. According to the Decision, the CE may be elected by universal suffrage in 2017 and, after the CE has been elected by universal suffrage, all members of the Legco may be elected by universal suffrage in 2020. This carries most important significance for Hong Kong's constitutional development."
The spokesman added that, as reflected in opinion polls, the Decision was well received by the community. According to the poll conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong in January, more than 70 per cent of the public accepted the Decision.
"The Central Authorities and the HKSAR Government are fully committed to the implementation of universal suffrage according to the Basic Law. Now that the universal suffrage timetable has been set, the HKSAR Government will strive to work towards securing consensus within the community on how to further democratise the two electoral methods for 2012, so as to pave the way for attaining universal suffrage for the CE in 2017 and for Legco in 2020," he said.
"We have established the Task Group on Constitutional Development under the Commission on Strategic Development to take forward discussions on the electoral methods for 2012.
"At its second meeting on March 27, the task group discussed issues concerning the electoral method for forming the Legco in 2012. Most of the members who expressed their views were inclined towards increasing the number of Legco seats in order to enhance the representativeness of and to cope better with the work in the Council. Also, if the number of Legco seats is increased, this will enable more people to participate in politics, nurture more political talent, and lower the population-to-seat ratio of the local legislature to bring it closer to the ratios of other places in Europe and Asia.
"Regarding the Legco election in 2012, although the Decision stipulates that the half-and-half ratio between members returned by functional constituencies (FCs) and members returned by geographical constituencies through direct elections shall remain unchanged, there is still room for making amendments to the electoral method to enhance its representative elements.
He said that the Government had made no decisions on the electoral methods for 2012 and we hoped that discussions in the task group would be completed around the middle of this year.
"The Government will then 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," he explained.
Ends/Sunday, March 30, 2008