Following is a question by the Hon Tanya Chan and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (June 9):
The Government has recently launched a massive publicity and promotional campaign, including advertising on television, radio, newspapers, bodies of public transportation vehicles or in transport stations, to call on the public to support the package of proposals on the methods for selecting the Chief Executive and for forming the Legislative Council in 2012 (the 2012 constitutional package). In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the estimated expenditure for the publicity and promotion of the 2012 constitutional package conducted by the Government, together with a breakdown by publicity item;
(b) whether it has assessed if the video and audio publicity messages on the 2012 constitutional package broadcast in electronic media are political advertisements, or rather public information generally broadcast during the airtime for publicity messages; if the assessment outcome is that they are not political advertisements, of the justifications for that; if the assessment outcome is that they are, and given that there are restrictions imposed by the Broadcasting Ordinance on the broadcasting of political advertisements on radio and television at present, whether the Government had consulted the Broadcasting Authority (BA) before releasing such advertisements, and what the outcome of such consultation is; if BA had not been consulted, of the reasons for that; and
(c) given that the publicity materials for the Legislative Council by-election for the five geographical constituencies held earlier did not encourage the public to vote, but the publicity materials for the 2012 constitutional package called on the public to support the package, of the criteria based on which the Government decided to adopt the aforesaid completely different approaches; whether the Government will continue to conduct political publicity using the airtime for publicity messages; if it will, of the reasons for that?
(a) The Government published in April 2010 the Package of Proposals for the Methods for Selecting the Chief Executive and for Forming the Legislative Council (LegCo) in 2012 to summarise the views received during the three-month consultation exercise from November 2009 to February 2010, and to set out the Government's proposed package for the above two electoral methods in 2012. To tie in with the release of the proposed package, the Government has launched a publicity exercise to appeal to the public for their support of the 2012 constitutional package.
At this stage, the Government has set aside about $9 million for the publicity exercise. A breakdown is set out in the table below. The Government may make further adjustments to the funding earmarked, if necessary.
(a) TV and Radio APIs 3.3
(b) Posters and leaflets 0.1
(c) Newspaper and website banner 2.5
(d) Advertisements on bus, tram, 1.5
taxi bodies, and inside
(e) Buntings, outdoor wall banners, 0.6
other display and miscellaneous items
(f) Contingency 1.0
(b) It is the Government's policy to enhance the democratic elements in the two electoral methods in 2012 by pursuing the proposed package put forth in April 2010. The Government will continue to make its best endeavours to secure the public's support and LegCo's endorsement of the proposed package.
Hong Kong has reached a critical juncture for its democratic development. The LegCo will soon vote on the two motions regarding the amendments to the two electoral methods in 2012. The TV and Radio APIs produced in relation to the release of the proposed package are aimed at facilitating the public to better understand the meaning and significance of rolling forward Hong Kong's constitutional development in 2012. The Government's publicity on the package does not promote the interest of any specific organisation, commercial concern or individual, nor does it advertise the interests or merits of any specific political organisation or personality. Instead, it touches upon a matter of concern and interest to the community as a whole. The Government's publicity on the subject is a campaign to promote a government policy. It is entirely different from political advertisement.
(c) It is not appropriate to compare the publicity for the LegCo by-election in May 2010, and the publicity for the 2012 constitutional package. The two exercises are entirely different.
On the LegCo by-election in May 2010, the consistent position of the HKSAR Government is that this by-election is unnecessary and could have been avoided. Under the existing legislation, the Government has the responsibility to arrange for a by-election when a vacancy in the LegCo arises. The Government has also launched a publicity exercise to inform electors of the arrangements for the by-election. It is for individual electors to decide for themselves as to whether, and if so how, they should vote at the election.
As regards the 2012 constitutional package, it can enhance the democratic elements of the two elections in 2012, in particular through the participation of elected District Council members who have a broad electorate base in forming the Election Committee and the LegCo. This can also pave the way for implementing universal suffrage. The mainstream view within the community is that constitutional development of Hong Kong should take a step forward in 2012, so as to pave the way for implementing universal suffrage. If Hong Kong can achieve consensus on the 2012 electoral methods, we will have more confidence and will be in a better position to implement universal suffrage in 2017 and 2020.
As stated in part (b) of my reply above, the Government's publicity on the 2012 constitutional package is a campaign to promote a government policy. It is entirely different from political advertisement.
Ends/Wednesday, June 9, 2010