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Referendum on constitutional development neither practical nor appropriate

In response to the "Letter to Hong Kong" by the Honourable Lee Cheuk-yan broadcast on RTHK Radio 3 today (November 7), a Government spokesman reiterated that the Hong Kong SAR should deal with constitutional development in accordance with the Basic Law and the decision made by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) on April 26, 2004.

The spokesman added that for changes to be made to the methods for electing the Chief Executive (CE) in 2007 and for forming the Legislative Council (LegCo) in 2008, we should go through the process set out in Annexes I and II of the Basic Law, i.e. to secure a two-thirds majority support in the LegCo, the consent of the CE, and the endorsement of the NPCSC.

"The idea of a referendum is not practical. It is not in accordance with the procedures stipulated in the Basic Law.

"It would amount to a waste of time and energy, and a needless distraction for the community," he said.

The spokesman pointed out that a referendum was also not appropriate.

"The NPCSC has the constitutional power and responsibility to oversee Hong Kong's constitutional development. We are obliged to pursue the amendment of Hong Kong's electoral system according to the decision made by the NPCSC," he said.

"In fact, before making its decision on April 26, the NPCSC had considered carefully the actual situation in Hong Kong, including different views in the Hong Kong community," he added.

The spokesman stressed that the Government would not conduct a referendum on constitutional development.

The Constitutional Development Task Force would issue a fourth report before the end of the year. This report would consolidate all the views which the Task Force had received in the last five months since the publication of the Third Report, he said.

The community would have several months to put forth their views on the electoral arrangements for 2007 and 2008.

"We hope that around mid-2005 a consensus will have emerged from the community. The Task Force will then issue a fifth report to set out a mainstream proposal to facilitate further public discussion.

"Once we have secured the necessary support from the public and the LegCo, we will proceed with the legislative process to amend relevant provisions in Annexes I and II of the Basic Law and thereafter deal with local legislation," he said.

The spokesman said that the ultimate aim of universal suffrage was widely supported in Hong Kong community. The discussion in the community was over the question of pace and form for attaining that ultimate aim, and for further opening up the electoral arrangements for 2007 and 2008.

"Hong Kong is a pluralistic society. People with different views on constitutional development have to work together on a set of proposals which is feasible, which is in accordance with the Basic Law and the NPCSC decision, and which could bring our electoral systems closer to the ultimate aim of universal suffrage.

"All parties have to be prepared to accommodate mutual differences and widen the common ground in order to reach consensus," he said.

He said that the Task Force would continue to reflect fully to the Central Authorities the views and sentiments of the community.

Ends/Sunday, November 7, 2004