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Transcript of SCA's media session

Following is a transcript of a standup briefing by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, during the intermission of a seminar on the 10th anniversary of the implementation of the Basic Law and 17th anniversary of the promulgation of the Basic Law at Hong Kong City Hall this morning (April 4) (English portion):

Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: At this stage, the HKSAR Government has not ruled out any model for universal suffrage, including the possibility of universal suffrage for the Legislative Council (Legco). All we have stated is the fact that, at the moment, there is inadequate support amongst the various political parties and groups in Legco for functional constituencies to be abolished. There are now 21 Legislative Councillors in support of the abolition of functional constituencies. If they can secure 19 extra votes in the council, then we have a better basis to commence further discussions on that possibility.

Secondly, we have not raised the threshold for nominations just because Mr Alan Leong took part in the recent Chief Executive election. Back in 2005, we proposed an expansion of the Election Committee to include 1,600 members. Included among those 1,600 members were 400 directly-elected District Councillors. The composition of that proposition actually included more than one-eighth of votes which we believe would have supported a pan-democratic camp candidate. So, we have always been very open-minded about this.

Thirdly, I would say that the proposal made by Mrs Anson Chan and her core group to change the format for returning functional constituencies in 2008 is not practicable. It is not possible for us to combine functional constituencies of different natures. If we get the agriculture and fishery constituency to be combined with the industrial constituencies, the numbers are very different. There are over 100 organisations in the agriculture and fishery (sector) and over 1,000 companies in the industrial sector. Will these sectors agree to such a combination? Likewise, there are over 10,000 doctors and dentists. Will they agree to an amalgamation with the nursing and para-medical functional constituency with over 30,000 members?

In the final analysis, it is actually not easy to secure two-thirds majority in the Legco to support constitutional reform. Back in 2005, we tried very hard. We got 34 votes. In recent weeks, we have seen the opposition camp trying to come up with a formula; and I welcome their efforts to come up with a formula. But once you get into the details, divergence of views will emerge. And nowadays, they have lost four votes among the pan-democratic camp. We still are quite some distance away from securing two-thirds majority. So I would encourage all parties concerned to make an effort to accommodate mutual differences. Then, we stand a better chance of making progress for Hong Kong.

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

Ends/Wednesday, April 4, 2007