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CAB statement

Commenting on the remarks made by Mrs Anson Chan on constitutional development in her "Hong Kong Letter" broadcast on RTHK today (March 17), a Constitutional Affairs Bureau spokesman said that the immediate priority of the community should be to focus on the models for implementing universal suffrage and to seek a community-wide consensus on the roadmap, rather than to seek a fundamental reorganisation of functional constituencies (FCs) prior to the 2008 Legislative Council (LegCo) election. It would be extremely difficult to secure consensus to combine FCs of different backgrounds at this point in time.

The spokesman said that the HKSAR Government had also tried to broaden the democratic elements of the 2007 Chief Executive (CE) election and the 2008 LegCo elections, so as to move further towards universal suffrage.

"That is why, in 2005, we put forth a proposed package for the 2007/08 elections, which proposed to incorporate all District Council members in the Election Committee and enable them to elect more representatives to the LegCo.

"However, despite our best endeavours and the emergence of majority support among the public, members of the opposition in the LegCo vetoed the package," he said.

The spokesman said that, in accordance with the Interpretation made by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on 6 April 2004, if no amendment was made to the 2007/08 electoral methods, the existing electoral arrangements would continue to apply.

"In any event, it would be extremely difficult to start engineering a fundamental reorganisation of the FCs and to combine FCs of different backgrounds for the 2008 LegCo election at this point in time. The immediate priority for Hong Kong is to secure consensus on the models and roadmap for implementing universal suffrage," he said.

The spokesman said that the Commission on Strategic Development was now having substantive discussion on possible models for selecting the CE and for forming LegCo.

"The Commission will meet again in April. Depending on progress made, the Government will publish a report around mid-2007 to summarise the discussions of the Commission for public consultation.

"The public can express views on possible models and the roadmap for implementing universal suffrage for selecting the CE and forming LegCo. We hope that this will help promote discussion within the community, with a view to narrowing differences and forging broad consensus," he said.

The spokesman added, "When the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was applied to Hong Kong in 1976, a reservation was made not to apply Article 25(b) in so far as it might require the establishment of an elected Executive Council or LegCo in Hong Kong. Under Article 39 of the Basic Law, the Covenant continues to apply to Hong Kong and the reservation remains in effect. Thus, the ultimate aim of universal suffrage for Hong Kong's constitutional development originates from the Basic Law and not the Covenant. It is entirely consistent with the Basic Law for us to consider the models and roadmap for implementing universal suffrage according to the principle of gradual and orderly progress and the actual situation in Hong Kong."

Ends/Saturday, March 17, 2007