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Government's response to the resignation of Legislative Council Members

     In response to the announcement made by two political parties of the Legislative Council (LegCo) regarding resignation in five geographical constituencies today (January 11), a Government spokesman said that, at the critical moment for Hong Kong to pursue democratic development, the resignation of LegCo Members as a means to conduct a so-called "referendum campaign in five geographical constituencies" would only obstruct the community focusing on the discussion on how to further democratise the electoral system in 2012. The HKSAR Government considered the resignation to be unnecessary as the Members had ignored the mainstream view of society which was opposed to such an act and it would not be conducive to forging consensus within the community.

     The spokesman also emphasised that the Basic Law did not provide for any referendum mechanism.??The Basic Law clearly stated that any amendment to the electoral methods for the Chief Executive (CE) and the LegCo required consensus among the three parties concerned, i.e. two-thirds majority support in the LegCo, consent of the CE, and endorsement by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC). Regarding how the electoral methods for the CE and the LegCo should be amended in 2012 and thereafter, the HKSAR Government must act in accordance with the procedures as stipulated in the Basic Law and the relevant interpretation and decision of the NPCSC.

     The spokesman said that the HKSAR Government already published the Green paper on Constitutional Development in 2007 to consult the public extensively on the options, roadmap and timetable for implementing universal suffrage. In his report to the NPCSC, the CE reflected faithfully the public's aspirations for universal suffrage, including that:

(1) in the opinion polls, more than half of the public supported the implementation of universal suffrage for the CE and the LegCo in 2012.??The CE also made it clear to the Central Authorities that these views should be taken seriously and given consideration;

(2) at the same time, about 60 per cent of the public accepted the implementation of universal suffrage for the CE in 2017, if this could not be attained in 2012.

     "Having considered the report submitted by the CE, the NPCSC made a decision in December 2007, making it clear that Hong Kong may implement universal suffrage for the CE in 2017, and that following that, all Members of the LegCo may be returned by universal suffrage in 2020. This is a constitutional and solemn decision," said the spokesman.

     "If we can go through the five-step mechanism for amending the two electoral methods before 2017 and 2020 in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Law, and the community can reach consensus on the universal suffrage models for the CE and the LegCo, universal suffrage will fall into place naturally."

     The spokesman said that the HKSAR Government was now consulting the public on how to enhance the democratic elements of the two elections in 2012, and hoped that the procedures for amending Annex I and Annex II to the Basic Law could be completed before the summer recess of LegCo this year. LegCo Members and the HKSAR Government both had the constitutional responsibility to work together to deal with Hong Kong's constitutional development for 2012. The Government and members of the public also hoped that LegCo Members would roll forward constitutional development in a responsible and rational manner.

     "As a matter of fact, the Central Authorities and the HKSAR Government fully understand the public's aspirations for universal suffrage. The NPCSC decision of 2007 also received the support of 60 per cent of the public. The HKSAR Government considers it unnecessary for these five LegCo Members to resign in the hope that this can result in a referendum campaign for the public to express their views."

     The spokesman said that the HKSAR Government would continue to roll forward Hong Kong's democratic development.

     "We attained the timetable for universal suffrage in 2007.??The HKSAR Government has put forth, in November last year, the directions which may be considered regarding the methods for selecting the CE and the LegCo in 2012: under the requirement of the NPCSC decision that the half-and-half ratio between members returned by functional constituencies (FCs) and members returned by geographical constituencies (GCs) through direct elections shall remain unchanged, we have abided by the principle of not creating new "traditional" FCs. Increasing the number of seats to be returned through election among elected District Council members can enhance the democratic elements of the LegCo."

     "We also suggest that consideration may be given to having all District Council seats in the Election Committee and the LegCo elected from among elected District Council members in 2012.??This can further enhance the democratic elements of the two elections.??By then, close to 60 per cent of the seats in the LegCo will be returned by GCs through direct or indirect elections."

     "Regarding the issue of how the FCs should be dealt with, there are still diverse views within the community.??We have already made it clear that when universal suffrage for the LegCo is implemented in future, the electoral model must comply with the principles of universality and equality, but there is no need to make a decision at this stage.??The community should continue the discussion on how the LegCo elections in 2012 and 2016 should be democratized step by step, so as to attain universal suffrage that can comply with the principles of universality and equality in 2020."

     The spokesman emphasised that the directions put forth in the consultation document did not represent the final view taken by the HKSAR Government.??The Government would continue to listen to the views of the public and various sectors of the community, in the hope of formulating a proposed package for the 2012 elections which was acceptable to different parties.

     "It is the constitutional responsibility of both the HKSAR Government and the LegCo Members to take forward Hong Kong's democratic development in 2012, so as to pave the way for implementing universal suffrage in 2017 and 2020.??Now that the universal suffrage timetable has been set, we call upon political parties and groups, as well as different sectors of the community to adopt an open and accommodating attitude, and to work together with the HKSAR Government towards securing consensus on the electoral methods for 2012."

Ends/Monday, January 11, 2010