Following is a question by the Hon Albert Ho and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (April 28):
In 1999, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government submitted a report to the United Nations in the light of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Paragraph 461(b) of the report stated that "the functional constituencies are transitional. The ultimate aim, as provided for in Article 68 of the Basic Law, is the election of all members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage". Moreover, on December 29, 2007, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) adopted the Decision on Issues Relating to the Methods for Selecting the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and for Forming the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in the Year 2012 and on Issues Relating to Universal Suffrage (the Decision). The Decision stated that "after the Chief Executive is selected by universal suffrage, the election of the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region may be implemented by the method of electing all the members by universal suffrage". In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether:
(a) it still maintains the stance that the functional constituency system is transitional only; if so, whether it has assessed if social conflicts relating to the retention or otherwise of functional constituencies will deepen as the issue continues to be left to the next-term Government to deal with; and
(b) it has assessed if the continued keeping of the functional constituency system in or after 2020 is a violation of Article 68 of the Basic Law and the Decision adopted by NPCSC in 2007?
(a) The consistent position of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government is that the existing electoral model for the functional constituencies (FCs) of the Legislative Council (LegCo) does not comply with the principles of universality and equality. The existing electoral arrangements cannot be maintained when universal suffrage for the LegCo is implemented.
Although the current-term HKSAR Government has only been authorised by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) to deal with the two electoral methods for 2012, we have consolidated and concluded the views relating to universal suffrage received during the public consultation on the electoral methods for selecting the Chief Executive (CE) and for forming the LegCo in 2012. We have also recommended the next-term Government to follow up actively and consider the relevant proposals seriously.
On the other hand, the HKSAR Government has put forth a package of proposals for the two electoral methods for 2012 (the proposed package), which can enhance the democratic elements of the two elections in 2012 through the participation of elected District Council (DC) members who have a broad electorate base. This can also pave the way for implementing universal suffrage. In particular, for the LegCo election, we propose that the number of seats be increased from 60 to 70. We have also abided by the principle of not creating new "traditional" FCs. Aside from increasing five geographical constituency (GC) seats, all five new FC seats will be returned through election from among elected DC members by proportional representation.
If the LegCo endorses the proposed package, close to 60 per cent of all seats in the 2012 LegCo will be returned through geographical direct or indirect elections, leaving only about 40 per cent for the "traditional" FC seats. This ratio will make it easier for the LegCo to build consensus on resolving the issue of FCs.
(b) Regarding the issue of how the FCs should be dealt with when universal suffrage for the LegCo is implemented, different sectors of the community, as well as various political parties/groups of the LegCo, still have extremely diverse views on this issue. There are views that the FCs should be abolished. There are also views that the electorate base of the FCs should be broadened, for example, by adopting the "one-person-two-votes" model, i.e. registered voters can cast one vote in the GC election, and the other in the FC election.
During the public consultation on the two electoral methods for 2012, the opinion poll conducted by Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of the Chinese University indicates that about half of the respondents consider that the FCs should be abolished when universal suffrage for the LegCo is implemented, while about 37 per cent consider that the FCs should be retained. However, the poll conducted by the Public Opinion Programme at the University of Hong Kong indicates that about 40 per cent consider that the FCs of the LegCo should not be abolished, while about 36 per cent consider that the FCs should be abolished.
In the light of the above, how the FCs should be dealt with is indeed an issue which requires the Hong Kong community to seek consensus on. More time is needed for the community to discuss the issue thoroughly with a view to forging consensus. At this stage, we cannot draw any final conclusion on the issue as to whether the FCs should be abolished or retained when universal suffrage for the LegCo is implemented. However, we have made it clear that the future universal suffrage model should comply with the Basic Law and the principles of universality and equality.
We hope that, over the next few years, the Hong Kong community can adopt a rational, pragmatic and accommodating attitude, so that we can work together to consider and forge consensus on this issue. We are pleased to see that recent discussions on this issue within the community have become more rational.
Ends/Wednesday, April 28, 2010