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Government will uphold fair and open electoral system

In response to the Letter to Hong Kong by the Honourable Emily Lau today (June 6), a Government spokesman said that the HKSAR Government would act strictly in accordance with the law to uphold our fair and open electoral system.

The spokesman said, "Like the people of Hong Kong, the HKSAR Government cherishes greatly maintaining our free, open and honest electoral system. We will not tolerate any illegal acts that will damage our reputation built in this respect with the efforts of various sectors over the past years.

"Hong Kong has a comprehensive statutory framework in governing the conduct of elections. If anyone considers that he is under duress in any election-related activities, he should report to the relevant enforcement authority. As always, the Electoral Affairs Commission will work closely with the Independent Commission Against Corruption in ensuring that the upcoming Legislative Council (LegCo) elections are clean and free from any illegal or corrupt practices, " he said.

The spokesman stressed that the cooperation and support of the public was crucial in maintaining the fairness and openness of HKSAR's elections.

In response to recent reports that someone was suspected to have completed voter registration forms not in accordance with the law, the police had dealt with the case seriously by taking immediate action. The Police will take any necessary follow-up action after thorough investigation.

The spokesman said that the current electoral law prohibited the use of mobile phones inside polling stations.

"We will step up the training for polling staff to ensure that this will be enforced effectively. We will also discuss with LegCo Members, in the context of examining a piece of subsidiary legislation on the September elections, what more could be done to maintain public confidence in polling arrangements.

On constitutional development in longer term, the spokesman said that the Interpretation and Decision made by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in April were entirely legal and constitutional.

"Following the publication of Report No. 3 in mid-May, the Constitutional Development Task Force is inviting community organisations and the public to submit specific proposals on the methods for selecting the Chief Executive in 2007 and for forming the LegCo in 2008," he said.

The Task Force would make its best endeavours to achieve consensus within the community on the way forward and create more room to further the constitutional development of Hong Kong.

On freedom of speech, the spokesman stressed that the freedom of speech in Hong Kong had not been eroded. The fact that radio talk show hosts and callers to the programmes continued to express their views freely on air bore testimony to this.

Apart from reassuring the public of its policy of upholding the freedom of speech, the HKSAR Government had also taken action on individual cases, he said.

"The Chief Executive had earlier made specific enquiries of the relevant Central Authorities, and had secured their pledge to support the HKSAR Government in taking action to safeguard the freedom of expression and of the press in accordance with the law.

"Meanwhile, the Police have contacted the three radio programme hosts who stepped down from talk shows and have started investigations into these cases. In the course of investigation, they have got in touch proactively with various parties based on clues obtained from media reports and other information. However, there is no evidence so far to suggest anyone has a plan to deliberately impede the freedom of speech in Hong Kong," he said.

Ends/Sunday, June 6, 2004