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Government's response to July 1 procession

     In response to the procession today (July 1), a Government spokesman said that the HKSAR Government fully respected people's rights to take part in processions and their freedom of expression, and attached great importance to their aspirations.

     "The Government would listen to people’s views expressed through various means in a humble manner and give them full consideration, , so that we can better address the needs of the public," the spokesman said, adding that the Government has taken note of the different views and demands expressed in today’s procession.

     "On promotion of democratic development in Hong Kong, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress has made a decision on the universal suffrage timetable, making it clear that the Chief Executive (CE) may be elected by universal suffrage in 2017, and all Members of the Legislative Council (LegCo) may be so elected in 2020. This decision is widely accepted by the community," the spokesman said.

     "The top priority for the current HKSAR Government is to determine the electoral methods for the CE and the LegCo in 2012. We should discuss how to enhance the democratic elements of those two elections, so as to pave the way for implementing universal suffrage in Hong Kong.

     "We will consult the public on the two electoral methods for 2012 in the fourth quarter of this year. We believe that there is enough time to discuss and to forge consensus on the arrangements."

     In the face of the threat of the global financial turmoil and the outbreak of human swine flu, the spokesman said the Government fully understood people’s worries about the economic prospect.

     "The Government has implemented a set of measures to stabilise the financial system, support enterprises, and preserve employment. These measures have eased the economic contraction and contained the increase of the unemployment rate. We have already spent $87 billion on the relief measures, amounting to 5.2% of our GDP.

     "On top of these short-term relief measures, the Task Force on Economic Challenges has identified six economic areas where Hong Kong enjoys clear advantages, so as to enhance our competitiveness and promote a knowledge-based economy. The HKSAR Government will explore the most effective means to develop the six industries by formulating appropriate policies and providing necessary resources. The Chief Executive will update the community on this in his Policy Address in October. "

     On the Lehman Brothers incident, the spokesman said the HKSAR Government acknowledged and recognised the difficult circumstances faced by some Lehman Brothers Minibond investors.

     "The Government hopes that the institutions involved will expedite the proper handling of the matter.

     "The Government encourages voluntary settlements between banks and clients. At present, there are over 7 000 cases in which voluntary settlements have been reached or will soon be reached between investors and the banks concerned. A substantial number of these cases involve senior citizens. We will assist them through the Consumer Legal Action Fund. Legal proceedings of one case will soon begin. "

     The spokesman noted that the Government had urged the Hong Kong Association of Banks and the trustee to safeguard the interests of the Minibond holders in the insolvency proceedings.

     Meanwhile, the Government also noticed that the procession has raised other different demands. On the issue of statutory minimum wage (SMW), the spokesman said: “In setting the SMW, we have decided to exclude live-in domestic workers mainly because of their distinctive working patterns, i.e. round-the-clock presence, residing in the employer’s household, and multifarious household duties, which render calculation of their working hours practically impossible as the SMW is to be denominated on an hourly basis.

     "This does not mean that live-in domestic workers will be less protected, for they enjoy a higher level of disposable income arising from their entitlement to special in-kind benefits.

     "For foreign domestic helpers (FDHs), their employers are required to provide free passage from and to the FDHs’ place of origin, free accommodation and food, free medical treatment, etc. These are benefits not available to non-live-in employees. "

     The spokesman stressed that the Government has since the early 1970s prescribed for FDHs a minimum allowable wage to provide them additional safeguard.

Ends/Wednesday, July 1, 2009