Following is the transcript of the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam's meet-the-media session after visiting the polling station at Sau Mau Ping Catholic Primary School this afternoon (September 7):
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: Up till 5.30pm today, during the course of the election, we have achieved a voter turnout rate of 26.7 per cent. Compared to the equivalent timeframe in 2004, the turnout rate then was 35.8 per cent. So, the turnout so far is relatively lower than 2004 and I would urge all registered voters to exercise their civic right to come out in the next five hours, until 10.30pm, to choose the Legislative Councillor of their choice.
It is very important for us to form the fourth-term Legislative Council (LegCo) according to the choice of Hong Kong people. The LegCo in the next four years will play a crucial role in determining the electoral methods for returning the Chief Executive and the LegCo in 2012. The legislature will also be playing an extremely important role in reflecting people's views about livelihood, economic and social issues. So, I would urge all registered voters to exercise their civic right within the next five hours till 10.30pm.
Reporter: Are you surprised by the low turnout given all the work that the Government has put in? Do you think this election is the most controversial one since the Handover given the issues surrounding the exit polls, and for example today there have been concerns about free transportation for voters living in the New Territories? Is this the most controversial election?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: I would say that in the last few years, we, on the part of the Administration, have done quite a lot of work to expand the voter registration base. We have increased the number of registered voters to 3.37 million. This is a record high. We have also been encouraging different political parties and independent candidates to take part in the election and to stand to be elected. We have introduced a financial assistance scheme, first in 2004. At that time, it was $10 per vote. For this current election, we have increased this rate to $11 per vote. As a result of this and other factors, we have over 200 candidates standing in this election. So, on the part of the Government, we have also been forthcoming in encouraging voter turnout and voter registration. In the last few months, we have spent $45 million on these fronts.
In the final analysis, I think voters will make their choice depending on the election manifestos of political parties and of individual candidates. Whether voters will come out and cast their votes will depend on whether they decide that these political parties and candidates are worthy of their support. But on the part of the Government, we will encourage all registered voters to exercise their civic right and cast their vote before 10.30 pm.
Reporter: Is this the most controversial election?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: I would say that every election has some controversial issues to debate. I wouldn't say that this particular election is the most controversial since the Handover. For a start, we have already made a decision on the universal suffrage timetable. That has given people a clearer direction for the future in terms of democratic development. You mentioned exit polls. I believe that so far as different organisations doing this research comply with the guidelines issued by the Electoral Affairs Commission and do not broadcast or publicise the election exit polling results before 10.30 pm, that will be alright. In the final analysis, it is up to individual voters to decide whether they would wish to respond to such exit polls.
Reporter: How about the free transport issue?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: You mentioned about those individual aspects of complaints. All I would say is that all complaints relating to elections would be dealt with and a decision would be taken after the election has been held. The Electoral Affairs Commission, the ICAC will study and examine all these complaints very vigilantly in accordance with the law and in accordance with our well-established electoral guidelines. As far as the Government is concerned, we will always maintain the principle of having free and fair elections. That is a core value of Hong Kong and I believe that is a core value which different political parties and individual candidates will subscribe to.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Sunday, September 7, 2008
SCMA visits a polling station in Kwun Tong
Photo shows the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, visiting the Sau Mau Ping Catholic Primary School Polling Station in Kwun Tong this (September 7) afternoon.
PSCMA visits a polling station in Tuen Mun
Photo shows the Permanent Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Joshua Law (second from left), visiting the Tai Hing Sports Centre Polling Station in Tuen Mun this (September 7) afternoon.
USCMA visits a polling station in Kowloon City
Photo shows the Under Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam (right), this (September 7) afternoon chatting with polling station staff at the Caritas Community Centre Polling Station in Kowloon City .