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Government's response: Central Authorities and HKSAR Government committed to enable HK to attain democracy

     In response to media enquiries regarding legislator the Honourable Albert Ho’s remarks in RTHK’s Letter to Hong Kong broadcast today (February 21), a spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said:

     The Central Authorities and the HKSAR Government are clearly committed to enabling Hong Kong to roll forward democracy in accordance with the Basic Law. The decision made by the Standing Committee for the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) in 2007 has made it clear that Hong Kong may implement universal suffrage for the Chief Executive in 2017 and thereafter for the Legislative Council in 2020. In the meantime, in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress, elections of the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council in 2012 can be made more democratic.

     Beijing has consistently respected and taken into account the views of Hong Kong people. This was very apparent during the drafting of the Basic Law in the 1980’s. In response to public opinions expressed in Hong Kong, the Central Authorities incorporated into the Basic Law the ultimate aim of returning the Chief Executive and all Members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage. Likewise, the NPCSC had taken into account fully public views in Hong Kong, expressed through consultations on the Green Paper on Constitutional Development, in making its decision on the universal suffrage timetable for the HKSAR in 2007. The timetable has provided a clear direction and timeframe for Hong Kong’s constitutional development henceforth.

     While the universal suffrage timetable has been set, the Central Authorities have not determined the electoral methods for implementation. This is consistent with Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy under the Basic Law. Under the Basic Law, consensus must first be reached within the HKSAR on the universal suffrage electoral methods for the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council. It is for the HKSAR Government to introduce motions on the two electoral methods to the Legislative Council for its endorsement. The motions will then need to obtain the consent of the Chief Executive and be reported to the NPCSC for approval or for the record.

     The current-term HKSAR Government is authorised to handle the electoral methods for 2012. The task of the current-term HKSAR Government is to determine, within the framework of the NPCSC’s 2007 decision, the two electoral methods for 2012 by injecting new democratic elements into the electoral arrangements, so as to pave the way for implementing universal suffrage for the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council in 2017 and 2020 respectively.

     Under the requirement of the NPCSC that the half-and-half ratio between Legislative Council Members returned by functional constituencies and geographical constituencies through direct elections shall remain unchanged, the HKSAR Government has abided by the principle of not creating new “traditional” functional constituencies. To enhance the democratic elements of the Legislative Council, it has been proposed that the number of seats to be returned through election among elected District Council Members be increased in 2012. Out of 70 seats in the Legislative Council, 41 (or close to 60 per cent) of the Legislative Council seats will be returned by direct or indirect geographical elections.

     Noting that recent discussions on constitutional development have taken a more rational and pragmatic course, the HKSAR Government welcomes this development and considers that this will help promote positive interaction within the community and will be conducive to Hong Kong moving towards further democratisation.

Ends/Sunday, February 21, 2010