Following is a question by Dr the Hon Lam Tai-fai and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (January 7):
Some members of the public have pointed out that the decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress made on August 31 last year regarding the constitutional development of the Hong Kong SAR has laid down the framework for the specific proposals for selecting the Chief Executive ("CE") by universal suffrage in 2017, and the subsequent unfurling of the Occupy Central movement plunged the society into an unprecedented dissension. They have also pointed out that although the Government has repeatedly emphasised that there is still room for discussion on the constitutional development (such as the composition of the nominating committee, the nomination threshold for CE candidature, the voting method for selecting CE by universal suffrage, etc.), views in society remain greatly diverse. Moreover, as the endorsement of the relevant proposal ("constitutional reform package") by a two-thirds majority of all the Members of this Council is required for amending the method for selecting CE as set out in Annex I to the Basic Law, it will be very difficult to implement the selection of CE by universal suffrage in 2017. Therefore, various sectors of the community are concerned about whether the Government can properly carry out the second round of public consultation and expectation management so as to prevent the recurrence of large scale protests. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) as some members of the public have criticised that one of the causes for the occurrence of the Occupy Central movement is the dissatisfaction among some members of the public about the incomplete reflection of public views in the report prepared by the Task Force on Constitutional Development on the first round of public consultation on constitutional development, whether the authorities have comprehensively reviewed the deficiencies in that round of public consultation; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) given that the second round of public consultation will be shorter in duration than the first round, whether it has assessed if there will be sufficient time for gauging the views of various parties; whether it will, during the consultation period, make arrangements for all the Members of this Council to go to Beijing to directly express to the Central Authorities their aspirations regarding constitutional development, and whether it will meet or attend open forums together with members of the Hong Kong Federation of Students and the Scholarism as well as the three initiators of the Occupy Central movement; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) whether it has assessed the consequences of the constitutional reform package not being endorsed by this Council, including whether a governance crisis will emerge and the relationship between the Executive Authorities and the Legislature will deteriorate; whether it has assessed if the road occupation movement will recur during or after the second round of public consultation, and of the Government's means to prevent the occurrence of such movement; if it has assessed, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Our reply to the questions raised by Dr the Hon Lam is as follows:
(1) The five-month first round consultation on the methods for selecting the Chief Executive (CE) in 2017 and for forming the Legislative Council (LegCo) in 2016 was launched on December 4, 2013 and ended on May 3, 2014. During the consultation period, the Task Force on Constitutional Development attended a total of 226 consultation events, and received about 124 700 written submissions from different political parties and Members of the LegCo, different groups from various sectors of the community, as well as individuals. In addition, through arrangements made by the CE, Members of the LegCo paid a visit to Shanghai on April 11, 2014 to meet and exchange views directly on constitutional development issues with officials of the Central Authorities responsible for constitutional development issues.
On July 15, 2014, the Government published the Report on the Public Consultation on the Methods for Selecting the Chief Executive in 2017 and for Forming the Legislative Council in 2016, to objectively and truthfully reflect the views received during the consultation period, as well as related opinion polls conducted by various groups and organisations, which were all made public and uploaded to the website for the subject for public inspection. We were also aware that after the first round consultation, there were still a number of groups and members of the public expressing through different ways and channels their opinions and aspirations on the implementation of universal suffrage for the CE election in 2017. These aspirations were also truthfully reflected in the report submitted by the CE to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC).
Besides, during and even after the five-month consultation period, the Government arranged different parties in the LegCo to meet and communicate directly with Central Authorities officials and Central People's Government's officials stationed in Hong Kong, so that different parties and Members of the LegCo could convey their opinions to these officials directly and adequately.
The Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on Issues Relating to the Selection of the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region by Universal Suffrage and on the Method for Forming the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in the Year 2016 (Decision) adopted by the NPCSC on August 31, 2014 also clearly points out that in the course of deliberation, the Tenth Session of the Standing Committee of the Twelfth National People's Congress has given full consideration to the relevant views and suggestions of the Hong Kong community.
(2) As mentioned in part 1 of this reply, the Hong Kong community has had fairly comprehensive and in-depth discussions on the method for selecting the CE by universal suffrage in the past year, including the five-month first round public consultation, and subsequent discussions in the community. The Decision of the NPCSC on August 31, 2014 has set out a clear framework on the specific method for selecting the CE by universal suffrage, including provisions on the size, composition, nominating procedures, etc., of the Nominating Committee. The objective for the Government to launch a second round public consultation on the method for selecting the CE by universal suffrage is to consult the public, under the Basic Law and the framework of the Decision, on the content of the proposal to amend Annex I to the Basic Law regarding the method for selecting the CE, which will be submitted to the LegCo at a later stage. Overall speaking, we consider that a two-month consultation period is appropriate.
We must reiterate that the method for selecting the CE by universal suffrage must be formulated strictly in accordance with the Basic Law and the Decision. Any suggestion that is not in conformity with the Basic Law and the Decision, or insistence that the Decision should be revoked, is impractical and impossible to complete the remaining three steps of the "Five-step Process" of constitutional development, i.e., obtaining endorsement from the LegCo by a two-thirds majority, consent of the CE, and approval by the NPCSC. The Chief Secretary for Administration will later make a statement in this Council, to announce the launch of public consultation on the method for selecting the CE by universal suffrage. The Government hopes that the community will discuss, in a rational and pragmatic manner and under the Basic Law and the framework of the Decision, specific issues relating to the implementation of universal suffrage for the CE election. On such premises, the Government is willing to exchange views with anybody on how to implement universal suffrage for the CE election in 2017.
Regarding the suggestion of arranging all Members of the LegCo to visit Beijing, if this is so wished by a majority of Members, the Government, as always, is prepared to assist in the arrangements.
(3) Paragraph IV of the Decision adopted by the NPCSC on August 31, 2014 clearly states that: "if the specific method of universal suffrage for selecting the Chief Executive is not adopted in accordance with legal procedures, the method used for selecting the Chief Executive for the preceding term shall continue to apply." In other words, if certain LegCo Members insist on voting down the proposal, the hope of the general public for an early implementation of the universal suffrage for the CE election through "one person, one vote" will fall through, and the timetable for the implementation of universal suffrage for the LegCo will be further delayed. Therefore, after the conclusion of the second round consultation, the Government will submit to the LegCo at an appropriate juncture the resolution to amend Annex I to the Basic Law regarding the method for selecting the CE, and will strive to secure support from LegCo Members and the general public.
The Government considers that irrespective of the different views held by different people, all should abide by the law and uphold the rule of law when expressing their views. The Government also reiterates that we are firmly against any act that is unlawful. Law enforcement agencies will act strictly in accordance with the law to preserve public peace, maintain public order, and protect the livelihood of the general public from being affected.
Ends/Wednesday, January 7, 2015