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Transcript of SCA's standup briefing

Following is the transcript of the standup briefing given by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, when attending a forum on public policies this (October 8) afternoon (English portion):

Reporter: (What is your response to Miss Emily Lau's "Letter to Hong Kong"?)

Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: I think what has happened is that in the past months, we have been conducting discussions in the Commission on Strategic Development (CSD) in a very useful and constructive fashion.

I think as far as Miss (Emily) Lau's comment is concerned, she has taken our discussions out of context, and it is basically unfair to members of the CSD.

Members are trying very hard to narrow differences of opinions within Hong Kong community. For example, after discussing for several times, there are now more people in support of establishing a nominating committee which represents different sectors of the community, either on the basis of 800 members, or an expanded version encompassing, say, 1,600 members.

As regards the implementation of universal suffrage for the Legislative Council, there is now less support for a bi-cameral system.

I think in the months ahead, if we continue to proceed in this constructive and useful manner, we stand a good chance of narrowing differences of different opinions within our community and forging a way forward for implementing universal suffrage for Hong Kong.

Reporter: Is it a must that nominees for the Chief Executive (CE) have to have the consent of the Beijing Government?

Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: As far as the Basic Law is concerned, under Article 45, we are only required to establish a nominating committee which has a broad representation within the community. Details regarding the nomination mechanism and the subsequent implementation of election by universal suffrage are a matter for detailed discussions.

But so far as Article 45 is concerned, all we need to do is to establish a nominating committee which represents different sectors and different interests in Hong Kong community.

Reporter: The speakers just now said developing political talents... a better way is through democratic ways like elections. But the government's political appointment system is not a form of election. Can you elaborate how this can actually help developing political talents in Hong Kong?

Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: The system of political appointments which we are putting forth now is actually modelled on the American cabinet system. In the Untied States, the president is elected and it is up to the president to nominate and appoint his cabinet secretaries. And likewise in Hong Kong, we have a CE who is returned through elections. Even though for the moment he is returned through a system of election committee with 800 members. Nonetheless the CE has to face the public, has to deliver on his election manifesto and promises. And that's why like the American presidents, he needs a political team to implement his policies. We have the best of both worlds. On the one hand, we model our political system along that of the American cabinet system. On the other hand, we are keeping the British permanent secretary system. And that would help us ensure that public administration in Hong Kong will have continuity.

Reporter: Can you elaborate further why does it help developing political talents and continuity?

Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: As far as the development of political talents is concerned, even though we only have a system of indirect elections for the CE, by instituting a three-tier political appointment system now, we will enable a future CE whether he is elected directly or indirectly to have a full political team to deliver on electoral promises and to give an account to the people of Hong Kong on the governance of Hong Kong within the five-year term. And that I would emphasize is quite similar to what happens in the United States.

Reporter: You said that Emily Lau is unfair to the CSD members, can you elaborate on this?

Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: I would say that members of the CSD have been working very hard to try to bring together different views within the community and to narrow differences among these very different political views, as to how we can form a nominating committee for returning the CE and for putting forth candidates to the people of Hong Kong for universal suffrage. And it would be unfair to castigate the discussions among these members as merely trying to look after the interests of Beijing. We are trying very hard to forge a consensus within the Hong Kong community and to have ideas on how we can form a nominating committee which represents the broad interests of different sectors in Hong Kong.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Sunday, October 8, 2006