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Government's response to remarks made by Hon Kwok Ka-ki on universal suffrage

Commenting on the remarks made by the Hon Kwok Ka-ki on universal suffrage in his "Letter to Hong Kong" broadcast on RTHK today (September 3), a Government spokesman said that since reunification in 1997, Hong Kong had been making steady progress on constitutional development in accordance with the Basic Law.

He said, "Firstly, all Legislative Council (LegCo) seats are now returned by elections, and half of them are returned by universal suffrage through geographical elections.

"Secondly, the Chief Executive (CE) is returned by election through the Election Committee, members of which represent different sectors of the community," he said.

He said that the Government was firmly committed to promoting constitutional development in accordance with the Basic Law, with a view to achieving the ultimate aim of universal suffrage.

"In November last year, the CE initiated the discussion on formulating a roadmap for universal suffrage through the Commission on Strategic Development.

"Dr Kwok has taken the CE's statement out of context. In referring to the European Union (EU), we are not suggesting that constitutional development in Hong Kong should follow the timeframe of the EU's developmental path. Rather, as the evolution of the EU has shown, vision needs practical, steady and incremental steps to be realised and to flourish. We all share the vision of universal suffrage. Experience in other parts of the world indicates that popular elections alone are not sufficient conditions for democracy. Democratic evolution needs to fit the constitutional framework and the practical circumstances of the time. The Basic Law is the most important legal document on our constitutional development, and forms the basis of discussion at the Commission on Strategic Development."

The spokesman said that the Commission had already discussed the principles and concepts about universal suffrage and drawn conclusions that, in implementing universal suffrage, we should comply with the principle of gradual and orderly progress, meet the actual situation in Hong Kong, facilitate the development of the capitalist economy and address the interests of different sectors of society.

"Noteworthy is that Members of the Commission are drawn from a broad cross section of the community, as evidenced by the diversity of views expressed. We see an open and transparent dialogue on the basis of the Basic Law as of cardinal importance in enabling us to design a roadmap for universal suffrage that meets not only the constitutional requirements but also the aspiration of the community as a whole."

The Commission comprises professionals, academics, businessmen, politicians from different political parties, LegCo Members, and prominent labour and media personalities. Papers, submissions and notes of discussion of the Commission are accessible on the Commission website. The LegCo is also kept fully informed of progress.

The spokesman added that the Government had already brought the discussion about constitutional development to a new stage.

"The Commission has already commenced discussion on models for implementing universal suffrage for the CE at the meeting in July. Later this month, the Commission will proceed to consider different models for implementing universal suffrage for the LegCo.

"We aim to conclude discussions of the Commission by early next year and to produce a report, which will be submitted to the Central Authorities and made public. We hope that this can provide a sound basis for steady progress towards universal suffrage," he said.

Ends/Sunday, September 3, 2006