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Government's response to procession and public meeting

   In response to the procession and public meeting today (May 2), a Government spokesman said that the HKSAR Government fully appreciated the aspiration for implementing universal suffrage on the part of the members of the public and the pan-democratic camp who took part in the procession. However, the HKSAR Government also noted that the community generally hoped that constitutional development could take a step forward in 2012, so as to pave the way for implementing universal suffrage. Hence, the HKSAR Government called upon the community to adopt a peaceful, rational and pragmatic attitude in dealing with the issue of constitutional development, and to support the proposed package put forth by the Government for the two elections in 2012. This can lay an even more solid foundation for implementing universal and equal suffrage in future.

   The spokesman said, "the proposed package put forth by the HKSAR Government for the 2012 elections can enhance the democratic elements of the two elections in 2012 through the participation of elected District Council Members who have a broad electorate base. This represents significant democratic improvements over the existing electoral methods:

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

(2) The proposed package has responded to the demands of the pan-democratic Members who vetoed the proposal in 2005. We propose that only elected District Council Members who are returned by one-person-one-vote should take part in the two elections, and the District Council Functional Constituency (FC) seats should be returned under the proportional representation system. Both pro-establishment and pan-democratic camps will have a fair chance to compete for these seats.

(3) The Government has also undertaken that after the proposed package for the two electoral methods for 2012 has been passed by the LegCo, we will put forth proposals at the local legislation level as soon as possible to address the issue of abolishing the District Council appointment system."

   "Under the framework of the decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC decision), we have already strived for maximum latitude to enhance the democratic elements of the two elections in 2012 and to pave the way for implementing universal suffrage. The opinion poll conducted recently by a research organisation indicates that more than half of the public consider that the LegCo should endorse this package," the spokesman said.

   The spokesman said that the HKSAR Government fully appreciated the concerns of the public and political parties/groups of the LegCo about future universal suffrage models, particularly the issue regarding the FCs. However, under the NPCSC decision, the HKSAR Government was only authorised to deal with the two elections in 2012. Even the Central Authorities must act according to the Basic Law and the relevant Interpretation and Decision of the NPCSC, i.e. 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, aside from increasing five geographical constituency seats, all five new FC seats will be returned through election from among elected District Council Members. 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. Furthermore, if we include professional functional seats returned by individual votes, the body of democratic opinion in the legislature will be even more pronounced," he said.

   The spokesman said that Mr Qiao Xiao-yang, Deputy Secretary-General of the NPCSC, had made it clear on the day the HKSAR Government released the proposed package that the Central Authorities has thrown open the door to universal suffrage. Once the five steps were completed, we could get through the door to universal suffrage. The green light to implementing universal suffrage has already been given. Hong Kong could implement universal suffrage as long as we had reached consensus within Hong Kong and gone through the "five steps".

   "The HKSAR Government has also made it clear that the future universal suffrage models must comply with the Basic Law and the principles of universality and equality. The positions made clear by the Central Authorities and the HKSAR Government are aimed at enhancing public confidence in the implementation of universal suffrage in future," the spokesman said.

   "On the other hand, the HKSAR Government has fully reflected to the relevant ministries in Beijing the fact that some pan-democratic parties/groups have actively sought to communicate with the Central Authorities. We hope that all parties concerned will adopt an accommodating attitude and respect each other, so as to enhance mutual trust. This will be conducive to Hong Kong's stability and prosperity in the long run."

Ends/Sunday, May 2, 2010