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Acting CS speaks to media as constitutional review public consultation period ends

     The Acting Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Stephen Lam, spoke to the media on the close of the public consultation period on the 2012 constitutional review today (February 19). Following is the transcript of his remarks:

Acting Chief Secretary for Administration: The three-month public consultation period on the 2012 constitutional review is coming to a close today. During the consultation period, we have had extensive meetings with the Legislative Council and the 18 District Councils so that the councillors concerned can put their views directly to the Administration. The Chief Secretary for Administration and myself have met with various political parties and political groups. More recently, we have met with different coalitions formed by these political parties in the hope that the Hong Kong community as a whole can roll forward democracy. Together with other Principal Officials, we have attended over 60 forums, seminars and discussion groups. This has enabled us to glean from the community views from a very wide cross-section. The Government also organised two open forums and four regional forums to enable members of the community and district personalities to put their views to us directly.

     The Government warmly welcomes the fact that the community, different political parties and representative organisations of various sectors have come forth very actively to put forth their views. As of this morning, we have received more than 40,000 written submissions regarding the 2012 constitutional development proposals. Different groups have also put to us about 1.6 million signatures. Of these, 1.13 million are in written form and the rest are in electronic form.

     Earlier this afternoon, I also met with representatives of the Federation of Hong Kong Guangdong Community Organisations. I received from them several hundred letters signifying support for Hong Kong's democratic progress to be rolled forward in 2012.

     After the close of the public consultation today, we will conclude, summarise and classify the views which we have received. In overall terms, our working timetable is that we hope to complete the process of putting our proposals on amending Annexes I and II to the Basic Law to the Legislative Council, and for the Legislative Council to vote on these proposals, before its summer recess in 2010. Thereafter, we will be able to follow through with putting forward and enacting amendments to the Chief Executive Election Ordinance and the Legislative Council Ordinance during the 2010-11 Legislative Council process. This will then leave us with sufficient time to get the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council elections to be organised properly.

     Earlier today, I also met with representatives of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood (ADPL) and the Democratic Party. There are a few points which are worthy of mention.
     Firstly, the ADPL, at this juncture, does not insist on the immediate abolition of the functional constituencies. They also support the proposal of elected District Councillors to select from among themselves a number of Legislative Councillors. They consider and recognise that this is a process which carries significant democratic elements.

     Secondly, there has been communication between the HKSAR Government and the Democratic Party. We have also had contact with the Alliance for Universal Suffrage initiated by the Democratic Party and a group of academics. We believe that such mutual contacts are conducive to rolling forward Hong Kong's democracy in the sense that this will be helpful to building consensus within our community and hence, through concerted efforts, we hope that in the coming months we will actually be able to roll forward democracy for Hong Kong in 2012 and attain this consensus for the future of Hong Kong.

Reporter: Mr Lam, any chance that the Government can promise in the ultimate reform package that there will be genuine universal suffrage and the abolition of functional constituencies by 2020 because this is a very important point raised by various pan-democrats?

Acting Chief Secretary for Administration: On the views put forth by various pan-democratic parties, I would put forth the following preliminary response.

     Firstly, the universal suffrage timetable contained in the 2007 decision taken by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress is firm, is serious and is constitutional. The fact is that the Central Authorities have given Hong Kong a full greenlight for universal suffrage to be attained in 2017 and 2020. The fact also is that in accordance with the Basic Law, it is for Hong Kong to come up with specific proposals for implementing universal suffrage for the Chief Executive in 2017 and for the Legislative Council in 2020. It is out of respect for the Basic Law and the autonomy granted to Hong Kong that the Central Authorities have left these two models for implementing universal suffrage for Hong Kong to come up with specific proposals.

     Secondly, as regards universal suffrage for the Chief Executive, it is stipulated in the decision taken in 2007 by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress that universal suffrage for the Chief Executive will be implemented by all registered voters of Hong Kong. So, that is "one person, one vote".

     Finally, as regards the future of functional constituencies, this is a matter which continues to attract a diversity of views within this community. It is not possible for us to take an immediate decision on its future. But we will consolidate in our public consultation report all the views put forth by the pan-democratic and other parties and we will have all these views fully reflected when we put forth our specific proposals for amending Annexes I and II of the Basic Law in a few months' time.

Reporter: Regarding Audrey Eu's statement on the "de facto referendum", are you trying to suggest that she is trying to mislead the public?

Acting Chief Secretary for Administration: Well, what I said in Chinese just now is basically this. When we were going to secondary school and university, I represented the school and university teams in playing badminton. This lasted eight to 10 years. On a few occasions, there were several teams which had registered for the competitions but which failed to turn up. In those instances, it would be a genuine walkover. Now in this set of by-elections, there are some political parties which have made it abundantly clear that they do not intend to field candidates for the forthcoming by-elections. So the parallel is actually unsound. Also, if there were no other candidate contesting the by-election in a particular geographical constituency, then the sole candidate registered will be elected ipso facto, and zero number of votes will be cast. I have never heard of any jurisdiction around the world which would regard a zero-vote so-called "referendum" to be successful. I am just making a statement of fact.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Friday, February 19, 2010