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Transcript of SCA's stand-up briefing after visiting by-election polling station

Following is the transcript of a stand-up briefing given by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, after visiting the polling station of the Southern District Council Tin Wan Constituency By-election at S.K.H. Tin Wan Chi Nam Primary School shortly before noon today (November 21) (English portion):

SCA: The turnout rate for this by-election in the first three hours has been quite good so far. We have registered a total of 9.67 per cent voters coming out to participate in this by-election. This more or less compares generally with the turnout rate in the District Council election in November 2003. And compared to a previous by-election of last year in Sham Shui Po, this turnout rate is not bad. The turnout rate of the Sham Shui Po by-election, for the first three hours, was about 7.5 per cent. This time round we have six candidates standing in this by-election. They and their supporters are working very hard within the constituency to gather support. So we would call on all 9,300 voters who have registered to participate in today's by-election.

Reporter: (Your views on the intended stepping down of Dr Yeung Sum as Democratic Party chairman? How would that impact your relationship with the party?)

SCA: I have known Dr Yeung Sum since my days at the University of Hong Kong. He has always been a very committed person and both within and outside the Legislative Council, he has applied himself very fully to further the interest of Hong Kong and we shall continue to work with Dr Yeung Sum, his successor and members of the Democratic Party.

I think in respect of the 2007/08 constitutional development, it is very important for all political parties in Hong Kong including the Democratic Party to appreciate that whilst we can generate consensus within Hong Kong, likewise it is necessary for us to work together with Beijing to roll forward the reforms to these two electoral systems. What is in the best interest of Hong Kong now is for us to work within the parameters of the Standing Committee's decision in April this year and attempt to open up further the methods for electing the Chief Executive in 2007 and for returning the Legislative Council in 2008. It is very necessary for the government, all political parties concerned to appreciate that it is in the best interest of Hong Kong.

Reporter: (Chances of reaching a consensus?)

SCA: We do not underrate the importance and the challenge of forming this consensus. It is not going to be easy, but I think that provided all political parties, including the Democratic Party, appreciate that it is necessary for all of us in Hong Kong and for Beijing to work together, then we stand a chance. And we hope to further this communication and dialogue within the next half year or so. Hopefully by mid-2005, we will have a consensus emerging from the community and then thereafter we can deal with the amendments to Annexes I and II of the Basic Law and local legislation.

Reporter: (Do you think the Democratic Party will still have a chance to go to Beijing? Will you work towards that?)

SCA: You have seen that in the last half year or so, we have worked quite hard to promote dialogue and communication between Beijing and Hong Kong, and this applies across the political spectrum. For example, in April, when we invited the representatives of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress to come to Hong Kong, we invited representatives across the political spectrum to come and join our seminars. Likewise, at the end of September, we invited over 30 members of the legislature, including members of the democratic camp, to visit Beijing to participate in the 55th anniversary celebrations. So as far as the HKSAR Government is concerned, we are committed to promoting a continuation in improvements of this dialogue because it is only on the basis of dialogue that we can forge a consensus on the way forward for constitutional development.

Reporter: (Public confidence in future elections, including this one, might be undermined because of the hiccups in the 2004 Legislative Council election?)

SCA: In September, we had a historic turnout rate of 55.6 per cent. This goes to show that the civic awareness in Hong Kong is maturing steadily. Also the voter turnout rate on that occasion was matched by a lot of enthusiasm on the part of political parties and candidates standing. Likewise today we have six candidates standing, and I am sure that with their enthusiasm, the efforts by their supporters and the interests on the part of the electorate, we shall continue to promote interest in Hong Kong elections for this particular occasion, and for future occasions.

Reporter: (Do you think that you will agree with the Chief Secretary that referendum, or any form of it, is a waste of time? Do you also agree with views from Beijing that it is going to be seen a challenge to their authority?)

SCA: So far as the amendments to the two electoral methods are concerned, the Basic Law has very clear stipulations on procedures. We need a tripartite consensus. We need to secure two-thirds majority support in the Legislative Council, consent of the Chief Executive and endorsement by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. Aside from these three steps, it would be inappropriate and unnecessary for us to add on a further procedure. Therefore we would call on members of the democratic camp not to pursue this avenue of referendum. This is not going to be productive. What is in the best interest of Hong Kong is for us to work together within the Hong Kong community on a package of proposals which further opens up the two electoral methods for returning the Chief Executive in 2007 and for forming the Legislative Council in 2008. This is what is in the best interest of the community and of Hong Kong people. And I think it is very necessary for all political parties and all members of the legislature to appreciate and respect this constitutional order. This is the only way to go forward.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Sunday, November 21, 2004