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SCMA speaks to the media after attending radio programmes

     The Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, attended radio programmes this morning (December 14) to speak on the proposals to improve the existing voter registration system. The following is the transcript of Mr Tam's remarks in response to media questions afterwards:

Reporter: On the by-elections, can you specify exactly what percentage of respondents had favoured Option 1? Can you brief us what that option is? In the light of the lack of consensus on the issue, which is a very divisive one, how would the Administration proceed? For example, is more consultation needed?

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: At the end of the consultation, we have received more than 31,000 written submissions expressing their views on various options. The majority of views that we have received indicates that there is a general view that the Government should introduce some measures to curb unnecessary by-elections. But there is no majority view on which option to pursue. We have put forward four options. Among the four options, options 3 and 4 have the least support, whereas the first option, i.e. by-election will be held in any event but those who voluntarily resign will be banned from participating in the election, has more support. But in terms of percentage, I would suggest that you should wait for our actual report to be published because we are still finalising the report. But as I just mentioned, there is no majority view, one way or the other, on any option. So the problem is now with us to consider the next step to take. Of course we have to consult the Executive Council, and we have to go back to the Legislative Council, and it will take sometime as well. At the moment, the Government has no decision on any option. We have no decision on the way forward as well, but certainly this is something I have to deal with very soon.

Reporter: (on voter registration)

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: Under the current law, there is already a penalty for those who intentionally forward or submit false information, to a critical extent, and then participate in the ensuing election. It is already against the law. The fine is up to $500,000 and imprisonment for a maximum of seven years. It is already quite a heavy penalty, so the current law is there.

     Our proposal for public consultation in this regard is whether a particular voter who has changed his or her residential address and then, knowingly, that he/she has not updated his/her residential address, but has nevertheless gone ahead to cast his/her vote, should be an offence. Under the current law there is no such offence, but we are considering whether we should introduce such a new offence. But this is again quite controversial and there is some concern in certain sectors in the community so we will not put forward this proposal without full consultation. That is what I meant.

Reporter: But the Government is going to take the administrative measures ahead of the Legislative Council election next year. Will that be enough to prevent the occurrence of what happened in the District Council elections?

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: I believe that the administrative measures that we are going to introduce next month, together with the very serious follow up actions, especially those to be taken by the Police and ICAC, will provide the necessary deterrent effect for people to submit false information and cast their vote and thereby affect the result of the elections.

     At the same time, whether and how there should be new offences will be something for the community to be consulted later.

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

Ends/Wednesday, December 14, 2011