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Extension of political appointments paves way for electoral reforms

Following is the transcript of the standup briefing given by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, after attending the workshop on Further Development of the Political Appointment System organised by the Committee on Governance and Political Development of the Commission on Strategic Development today (September 25) (English portion):

Reporter: Mr Lam, earlier on you mentioned that actually there are some members who have questioned whether there is the need to restructure the present structure of the ministerial system. Is it that some of them are actually not very happy with the present system that probably they may think there is a need to restructure somehow?

Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: Maybe I would also say a few words about the general discussion held today.

On the whole, members of the Commission on Strategic Development who attended today's workshop are in support of extending the system of political appointment. They do consider that by extending the system in this manner, we will be able to broaden political participation, and that this move is beneficial to Hong Kong's long-term constitutional and political development.

On the part of the Government, I have to emphasise that the extension of the political appointment system is to help pave the way for further opening up and liberalisation of our political system.

In future, any Chief Executive elected, whether he is returned by the Election Committee or through universal suffrage, will have to account to the public and will have to implement the electoral promises made. And it is, therefore, very necessary for a future Chief Executive to have two or three tiers of political appointees to help him form his political team.

There were a few members who asked whether the Government was considering the possibility of reviewing or restructuring the current 11 policy bureaux, because there are some bureaux which, on the face of it, have more onerous responsibilities. But my response was that this is really a matter for the third term Chief Executive to decide on after election in March next year.

For the time being, we have put forth a proposed structure of having three tiers of political appointments: Secretaries, Under Secretaries and Political Assistants. We believe that by having such a three-tier political structure, we will be able to allow a future Chief Executive to form an adequate political team; and at the same time, to maintain the structure of having permanent secretaries and the civil servant establishment. Such a permanent civil servant structure will guarantee a continuity of public administration in Hong Kong.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Monday, September 25, 2006