Following is a question by the Hon Emily Lau and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (July 17):
Regarding the contents and timetable for public consultation on constitutional reform, will the executive authorities inform this Council:
(a) given that the Convenor of the Non-official Members of the Executive Council has recently expressed that a growing number of people who care about politics hope that the Government will expeditiously roll out the public consultation on constitutional reform because people will feel that the Government is procrastinating if it keeps on repeating that it will conduct public consultation at "a suitable time" and their patience is wearing out, why the authorities have not, after a long time, put forward a proposal on constitutional reform for public consultation; and
(b) whether the consultation paper on constitutional reform will include, apart from electoral arrangements, other important issues of constitutional reform, such as amending the law to abolish the stipulation that the Chief Executive (CE) must not be a member of any political party, so that CE may form a ruling coalition with the major political party (parties) in the Legislative Council (LegCo) for sharing power and responsibilities, as well as for joint governance of the Special Administrative Region, so that CE no longer has to rely on the current "one-off approach" in seeking the support from various political parties in LegCo for each and every issue; whether they have studied if it will contravene the Basic Law and the spirit of "one country, two systems" for the Government to be headed by a political party (parties); if they have conducted such a study, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Our reply to the questions raised by Hon Lau is as follows:
(a) The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) understands that the public has keen expectations towards the universal suffrage for the election of the Chief Executive (CE) in 2017. As the CE indicated at the Legislative Council (LegCo) Question and Answer Session on July 11, we have great commitment in implementing universal suffrage for the election of the CE in accordance with the Basic Law and relevant decisions and interpretations of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC). There are currently different views in various sectors of the community on constitutional development, and there are some differences in opinion on certain fundamental questions. To implement successfully universal suffrage for the election of the CE in 2017, the entire community has to seek common grounds and accommodate differences to forge a consensus; strictly adhering to the Basic Law and the relevant decisions and interpretations of the NPCSC in taking forward constitutional reform is also an important basis for the society to reach a consensus on achieving the aim of universal suffrage for the election of the CE.
Over the past year, the HKSAR Government focused on handling livelihood and economic issues, which are matters of the greater concern of the public. We envisage that we would have more chance to handle constitutional development issues in the coming year.
Although at this stage the formal consultation on the electoral methods of the 2017 CE Election and the 2016 LegCo Election has not yet commenced, we have been closely monitoring the opinions and proposals expressed by different sectors of the community, and meeting with different people to exchange views on constitutional development, to get ourselves well prepared for the formal consultation exercise. We will continue such efforts proactively.
(b) There is no explicit provision in the Basic Law on whether the CE may belong to a political party. The Chief Executive Election Ordinance (Cap. 569) allows a political party member to run for the CE election; however within 7 working days after he is declared elected he has to publicly make a statutory declaration to the effect that he is not a member of any political party. In addition, the elected person has to lodge with the Returning Officer a written undertaking to the effect that he will not, if appointed as the CE, become a member of any political party, or do any act that has the effect of subjecting himself to the discipline of any political party during his term of office as the CE.
The HKSAR Government consulted the public as to whether the CE should be allowed to be a member of a political party in previous consultations on constitutional development. In the report issued in April 2010, it is mentioned that opinion polls had indicated that more than half of the respondents considered that the requirement that the CE should not be a member of a political party should be maintained, and there were also noticeably more written submissions received supporting that such a requirement should be maintained. However, the majority views put forth by political parties and Members at the then LegCo at that time proposed that the current requirement should be abolished. The HKSAR Government at that time decided that the relevant requirement should not be changed for the 2012 CE election, but could be reviewed in the longer term.
Since there are quite a few members of the public who have recently expressed views on the issue of political affiliation of the CE, we will consider including this issue in the consultation document during the formal consultation.
Ends/Wednesday, July 17, 2013