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Transcript of SCMA's remarks at media session

     Following is the transcript of remarks by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, at a media session after attending the Legislative Council Panel on Constitutional Affairs special meeting this morning (January 31):

Reporter: Mr Tam, do you think it is not practical to amend the Basic Law to tackle the problem of Mainland pregnant women giving birth in Hong Kong, because the procedures are too complicated and it may involve the Central Government?

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: No, I have not said that the procedures stipulated in Article 159 of the Basic Law is, as you have said, not practicable. Indeed, the drafters I believe, have envisaged that maybe at a certain point in time, one may have to take that step to amend the Basic Law. But this is not something that we should take lightly, to say the very least. There should be an overwhelming consensus in the community that we should take that step before the Government should contemplate any concrete proposal along this line.

     As I have mentioned to your fellow reporters, what the current term Government has done was that the Chief Executive had at about two weeks ago proposed several administrative measures trying to stop the spread of the problem of Mainland pregnant women giving births in Hong Kong and thereby affecting the interest or privilege of our Hong Kong citizens. This is a serious matter that is dear to our heart and we would take forward any necessary steps very seriously. But to take any step that touches upon the Basic Law, whether it is the interpretation or amendment, one should not take it lightly. This is our constitution so whatever we do, we have to be sure that there is an overwhelming consensus in the community. We have yet to see such consensus emerging. As a matter of fact, we have seen different views in the community towards the proposals, to amend or to interpret the Basic Law, so we will have to give very serious consideration as to whether we should take this step.

Reporter: Mr Tam, but many lawmakers still question whether the proposal is sound. Will you actively seek the support of the Law Society and the Bar Association?

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: I certainly will do so. As I mentioned at the panel meeting just now, I have informally approached the leadership of the two legal professional bodies when the report was issued earlier, on that I would welcome any opportunity to explain our rationale and our legal consideration to them. The initial approach is that they would keep an open mind to our proposal and that they would welcome any opportunity for us to meet with them again to have a dialogue. I cherish this opportunity and would talk to the Secretary for Justice to see whether we together can meet with the two legal professional bodies as soon as possible.

     But at the same time, I guess the responsibility now is vested with the Legislative Council, as we will be submitting a new bill next Wednesday and for the Bills Committee, if established, to consider all views received, including those from the legal profession, as well as from the public on whether the overall proposal is acceptable and thereby will cast a support vote for us when it comes to the time. On my part, I will do my utmost to explain to any sector of the community the rationale behind our proposal. I hope that it will be generally accepted by the community.

(Please also refer to the Chinese transcript.)

Ends/Tuesday, January 31, 2012