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Government's response: Support Government's 2012 electoral package is conducive to Hong Kong's move towards universal suffrage

     In response to media enquiries regarding the remarks made by Legislative Councillor Audrey Eu in her “Letter to Hong Kong” broadcast on RTHK today (April 25), a Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau spokesman said:

     “The so-called ‘five geographical constituencies referendum’ will be divisive in our community and create new obstacles to rolling forward Hong Kong’s constitutional development. Supporting the Government’s proposed package for the 2012 elections will enable us to roll forward democracy towards universal suffrage in a proactive and meaningful manner.

     Ms Audrey Eu’s claim that the 2012 package is retrograde does not reflect reality and has no foundation. Any responsible Legislative Councillor should recognise that there are clear democratic improvements:

(1) The Government has secured a universal suffrage timetable: Hong Kong may implement universal suffrage for the Chief Executive (CE) in 2017, and thereafter for the Legislative Council (LegCo) in 2020.

(2) Responding to the demands made by the pan-democratic camp in 2005, this time round only the elected District Councillors will return the six District Functional Constituency seats by proportional representation. Political parties - pro-establishment and pan-democratic - will all have a fair chance to compete for these seats.

(3) The Government has also undertaken that after the 2012 package has been passed by the LegCo, we will put forth proposals at local legislation level to address the issue of abolishing appointed District Council seats.

     The HKSAR Government fully appreciates the concerns of pan-democratic camp about universal suffrage models, in particular about the functional constituencies. However, under the decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC decision), we are only authorised to deal with the 2012 elections. Even the Central Authorities must act according to the Basic Law and the NPCSC decision. The universal suffrage models must first obtain two-thirds majority support in the legislature, consent of the CE, and thereafter endorsement by the NPCSC.

     Nonetheless, if our 2012 package is passed, the 2012 LegCo will have 35 directly-elected seats and six indirectly-elected seats through the District Councils. Together, they will comprise about 60 percent of the Legislature, leaving only 40 percent for the traditional functional constituencies. This ratio will make it easier for the LegCo to build consensus on resolving the issue of functional constituencies. Furthermore, if we include professional functional seats returned by individual votes, the body of democratic opinion in the legislature will be even more pronounced.

     As to the so-called ‘referendum’, the consistent position of the HKSAR Government is that this round of resignations and by-elections is unnecessary and could have been avoided. In order to roll forward Hong Kong’s constitutional development and to amend the two electoral methods for 2012, we must act in accordance with the procedures as stipulated in the Basic Law and secure consensus among the three parties concerned. The procedures for amending the two electoral methods for 2012 will not be affected by the results of the LegCo by-elections.

     A recent survey conducted by Hong Kong University shows that the public’s dissatisfaction with the overall performance of LegCo Members continues to grow. This probably reflects public disapproval of the resignation of the five LegCo Members. Mainstream opinion among the public supports that constitutional development should take a step forward, instead of having endless disputes. LegCo Members who are advocating the so-called ‘referendum’ should take the public opinion reflected by this survey seriously, because the people of Hong Kong are sending them a clear signal that they do not approve of their act.

     It is the constitutional responsibility of both the HKSAR Government and LegCo Members to take forward Hong Kong’s democratic development in 2012. Now that the universal suffrage timetable has been set, we call upon political parties and groups, as well as different quarters of our community to keep an open mind, to be accommodating, and to work together with the HKSAR Government towards securing consensus in a rational and pragmatic manner.”

Ends/Sunday, April 25, 2010