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Referendum on constitutional development will lead us nowhere

In response to the "Letter to Hong Kong" by the Honourable Margaret Ng broadcast on RTHK Radio 3 today (November 21), a Government spokesman stressed that the Government would not conduct a referendum on constitutional development, as it was inconsistent with the procedures stipulated in the Basic Law, and would not be conducive to building consensus on the two electoral methods for 2007 and 2008.

The spokesman added that the Hong Kong community should promote 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.

"Our immediate task is to make full use of the room available under the NPCSC's decision to further open up the electoral methods. Re-opening discussion on universal suffrage in 2007 and 2008 at this juncture will not contribute to the consensus-building process.

"The Basic Law has laid down specific procedures whereby changes to the methods for selecting the Chief Executive (CE) in 2007 and the Legislative Council (LegCo) in 2008 have to be endorsed by two-thirds majority of the LegCo Members, the CE and the NPCSC.

"The idea of a referendum, which goes beyond this amendment mechanism of the Basic Law, is neither necessary nor appropriate.

"After considering carefully the full spectrum of views expressed by the community on constitutional development, the NPCSC has decided that universal suffrage would not be implemented in 2007 and 2008.

"Any attempt seeking to change the NPCSC's decision by way of a referendum would be futile.

"Neither should we mislead the public to believe that universal suffrage may still be attainable in 2007 and 2008," he said.

The spokesman said that two important requirements had been enshrined in the tripartite amendment mechanism stipulated in the Basic Law.

"Firstly, it requires that any changes to the electoral methods beyond 2007 must receive broad-based support within LegCo.

"To this end, Members of the geographical constituencies and the functional constituencies have to work together to derive a set of proposals that can at least win the support of 40 Members within the legislature.

"Secondly, no changes will be possible without the support of the Central Authorities. This requires that any discussion on the specific proposals has to be conducted on the basis of the Basic Law and the NPCSC's decision.

"For progress to be made in 2007 and 2008, the community at large, including the legislators, have to embrace these two principles to pursue constitutional development.

"The Constitutional Development Task Force will issue a fourth report before the end of the year. This report will consolidate all the views which the Task Force has 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 decision.

"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 to the Basic Law and thereafter deal with local legislation," he said.

Ends/Sunday, November 21, 2004