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SCMA answers questions at media standup

     Following is the transcript of replies to the media by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, after attending a radio programme this morning (January 8):

Reporter: Following up on your proposal and your effort to gauge support from the pan-democrats, what are you actually going to do or would you propose any plans of expanding the Nominating Committee or the blank vote system to gauge their support? Or do you have any name list of which one you would approach?

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: For your last question, I think if I tell (the name list to) you today, it would only strengthen their opposition and their determination to veto our proposal. So I won't be able to tell you further than what you have already guessed. Seriously, for the second round public consultation, as our pamphlet has mentioned, the main purpose of our consultation is actually (about) two sets of numbers - one is 2017 and the other is 5 million. The main purpose is to give 5 million eligible voters the right to elect the Chief Executive candidate to be the next-term Chief Executive. This is the whole purpose of our exercise and this is actually the most essential element of any universal suffrage system in the world.

     The "one man, one vote" system is universally recognised as the most essential and the core element of any democratic system in the world. I understand this is actually also the objective pursued by many people, by various sectors of the community in Hong Kong over the past decades. We are now approaching 2017. Five million voters are waiting. I hope that when you compare the numbers, 5 million against 27 (pan-democratic members), the 5 million would prevail at the end of the day. But it is still a very uphill battle. It is still a very challenging and difficult process.

     In the (consultation) document, the main point, selling point if you like, is not so much with the composition of the Nominating Committee. We confessed yesterday that despite the possible room to make further improvement under the existing legal framework, the political reality is that there is not much room there for us to do anything significant so as to convince the 27 pan-democratic members to change their mind. But we have included in the document (proposals) to make the nominating process more open, transparent and accountable. Hopefully we would bring forward the influence of our eligible voters - the 5 million voters - not only during the election stage but also during the nomination stage that their opinion would matter and their opinion would have impact on the ultimate choice of the Nominating Committee. That is the essential part of our second round public consultation.

Reporter: You mentioned just now that the main point of the second round consultation is to increase the competitiveness of the election as well as the transparency of the Nominating Committee. Do you think this mechanism would achieve the same effect as the system that the pan-democrats are striving for? Secondly, what's the plan if the worst comes the worst?

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: What we are proposing is to maximise the room that we can inject further democratisation and accountability of the Nominating Committee to the extent that the public opinion would have an impact on the ultimate choices by the Nominating Committee, as I have just explained to you colleague here. Whether it would be sufficient to change the mind of the pan-democrats, I don't know. We would rather leave it to our citizens to express their views during the coming two months. If we have sufficient public support, I am sure that the pan-democratic members - they are the representatives of our people - should listen to the views of our people. If we can gain sufficient public support of our proposals, I am sure they would have to listen.

     As regards your question on our worst-case scenario, that is we would have the status quo for 2017. Legally, we have already provided for this scenario under the Basic Law as well as the National People's Congress Standing Committee decision. Whether the frustration and the disappointment by the general public would then be transferred or exerted on which parties, we would have to see. Whether the Government would as a result face a more difficult governance situation; or whether the pan-democratic party members because of their opposition, because of their veto of any proposal and therefore taking away the right to vote by 5 million people; whether during the coming District Council Election and the Legislative Council (LegCo) Election next year would make them lose more seats, remains to be seen. The worst-case scenario is not only for the SAR Government but it is also for all members of LegCo if we do not survive in LegCo of our proposals.

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

Ends/Thursday, January 8, 2015