Following is the transcript of the meet-the-media session held by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, after the fourth meeting of the Task Group on Constitutional Development of the Commission on Strategic Development this (June 27) afternoon:
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: I am very grateful to all of you for coming to cover the fourth meeting of the Task Group on Constitutional Development of the Commission on Strategic Development. In the last four months, we have gone through a process of preliminary discussions to generate ideas for formulating options for public consultations for determining the electoral methods for the Chief Executive (CE) in 2012 and the electoral methods for forming the Legislative Council (LegCo) in that same year. The process has been helpful. Members who attended the Commission’s meeting today were generally of the view that we should make our best endeavours to roll forward democracy for Hong Kong so that by 2012 we will come to a midway point and that we would be able to pave the way for the introduction of universal suffrage for returning the CE in 2017 and for forming the LegCo through universal suffrage in 2020.
As regards the method for returning the CE in 2012, members were generally of the view that we should aim at having a composition of the Election Committee which would be able to be transformed to form the Nominating Committee in 2017.
Also, generally speaking, members were of the view that we should maintain a nomination threshold of one-eighth for 2012. We should maintain the four sectors in forming the Election Committee, i.e. the business sector, the professional sector, the social service sector and the political sector.
As for the actual composition of the committee, most members believed that we should consider options which would involve having more than 800 members. But as to whether this would involve 1,000, 1,200, 1,600 or 1,800 members, this is a matter for further discussions and consideration. Likewise, it is a matter for further discussions and consideration as regards the electoral base.
As for the electoral method for forming the LegCo in 2012, members were generally of the view that we should aim at increasing the number of seats and most of them believed that 70 seats would be generally appropriate. There are some members who mentioned the option of having 80 seats.
That brings us to address the next question, i.e. we should have five, or half, of these seats coming out from geographical constituencies and then the other half from functional constituencies. One option mentioned more by various members would be to have district councillors electing more legislative councillors from amongst themselves. This will also have the indirect effect of broadening the electoral base for functional constitutencies.
I think we have now arrived at a point where we have gathered quite a lot of views from among Commission members and also through discussions in the LegCo in the last two months. This will be helpful to us in formulating our ideas for the next round of public consultation. By the fourth quarter of this year, we will decide as soon as possible as to when we launch the next round of public consultation for 2012 electoral methods.
Reporter: Regarding the timetable. Coming back to the need to introduce legislation, what is the latest decision on the public consultation – will it be two, four or six months? What do you have in mind?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: We will decide towards the end of this year, within the fourth quarter of this year, as to when we should launch the next round of public consultation. I believe that for the third-term HKSAR Government, we have ample time to deal with the electoral methods for 2012. We have spent the first year of our term of office to deal with the universal suffrage timetable. We have also spent the last few months in this first year to begin a process of prospective looking forward as to the possible options for consideration. I believe that at the latest by 2010, we should have firm proposals put to the LegCo for consideration as to the electoral methods for 2012 for returning the CE and for forming the LegCo. That will enable us to deal with possible amendments to Annexes I and II of the Basic Law to be followed by local legislation. So, we have up to two years between now and then to deal with public consultation.
Reporter: Composition of the Election Committee. If it increases in size, will it increases that spread equally among all four sectors in terms of the seats? That’s one. The other is the degree or percentage – if you increase the size of the EC, you are making a higher threshold in terms of members?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: For the discussion today, most members who expressed a view on nomination threshold agreed that we should maintain that threshold at one-eighth. As for the size of the Election Committee for 2012 and the composition of the four sectors, no decision has been made. That is precisely a question which we need to address during the next round of public consultation.
Reporter: Will the next consultation be in the form of a white paper? Will the proposals you refer to the legislature be in the form of legislation?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: I think the cover of the consultation document, the colour thereof, is not the most important. What is most important is that we will consult the legislature, District Councils, various functional sectors and the general community on the way forward for 2012 electoral methods. After that round of public consultation, we will see whether there is a firmer basis for us to put forward firm proposals for changing the electoral methods in 2012.
Reporter: My question is whether the proposals to the legislature be in the form of legislation, or may be just proposals?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: I think for the next round of public consultation, we will put forth certain options and ideas for the public to consider. We will not yet have reached the point whereby we put forward draft legislation for the legislature to consider.
Reporter: My question has two parts: what is going to the population for consultation and what is going to LegCo? Will what goes to LegCo be in the form of legislation or in some other form?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: I think as and when we launch the next round of public consultation, that will be a document which will encompass various options and ideas for the public to consider. After we have completed that round of public consultation, we will see whether differences within the community and among political parties have narrowed sufficiently for us to put forward a firm set of proposals with legislative amendments for the legislature to consider. At the very latest, we should put forward legislative amendment proposals to the LegCo on possible amendments to Annexes I and II of the Basic Law by 2010.
Reporter: Once you've agreed on the text of the amendments to the Basic Law, then you have to go to Beijing. Do you need to dovetail with any schedule up there, for example, of the NPC and things like that?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: You have been around for quite some time, Francis. You should understand that the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress meets regularly once every two months. So far as we are concerned, our target is to make a decision on the next round of public consultation on constitutional development about the fourth quarter this year. We will make full use of the next two years in dealing with public consultation and generating a firm set of proposals for legislative amendments in 2010. As and when we secure consensus within Hong Kong, once we got two-thirds majority in the LegCo, and consent of the CE, thereafter we will put these proposals to Beijing.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Friday, June 27, 2008