|Transcript of SCA's stand-up briefing
Following is the transcript (English portion) of a stand-up briefing given by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, after a meeting with Democratic Party members today (July 16):
SCA: I just had a meeting with the members of the Democratic Party. They presented to me views about the constitutional review, and regarding the scope of the review and the timetable which they think is appropriate.
I explained to the Democratic Party that in dealing with the 2007 constitutional review, it is necessary and actually very important for the Government, political parties concerned and independent members of the Legislative Council to make the greatest possible effort to widen the common ground and narrow our differences and also to establish some consensus on the way forward. It is because the Basic Law provides that up to two-thirds of Legislative Councillors' support shall be required and also the consent of the Chief Executive is necessary before any changes to the electoral systems beyond 2007 is possible. Therefore, it is very essential for members who are directly elected and members who are returned by Functional Constituency to come to a consensual view on the way forward. In the process, the Government will do everything we can to engender agreement and consensus among parties concerned.
Also, I have reflected to the visitors today that I have heard their views. I have listened very carefully to the views which have been expressed over past few weeks. At the same time, in our community, there are those who support a fast pace of progress towards direct elections. There are also those who propose that we should retain Functional Constituency seats in the Legislative Council. I will be very prepared to listen to views from all sectors as we move ahead. In the meantime, between now and 2006/07, we have four years. We shall ensure that as and when we launch the public consultation exercise, members of the public have adequate time to give their views and adequate opportunities to take part in the process.
On a slightly different topic, today is the final day for the voter registration exercise in 2003. As of July 14 (Monday), the Registration and Electoral Office has received up to 225,000 forms. About half of these, according to our preliminary analysis, represent new registrations and the remaining represent updating of personal particulars like addresses. It is a welcome fact that so many people have come forth to register and to update their electoral records. I would encourage all registered voters to take part actively in this year's District Council Elections in November and also to take part actively in the Legislative Council Elections in 2004.
Reporter: ..... The democrats asked today for the review to start in the fourth quarter this year. .... Are you refusing to speed up the pace and if so why?
SCA: We have had a very useful and constructive session with members of the Democratic Party. They have suggested that the public consultation exercise should start early as soon as this autumn. I have heard their views, and at the same time, I have heard the views expressed by the public in the last few weeks. At the moment, all I can tell you, Francis, is that we have ample time to deal with the constitutional review of developments beyond 2007. Between now and 2006/07, we have four years. So far as I can see, we have adequate time to deal with research, public consultation and local legislation. I have heard their views and I will hear views from other sectors before deciding on the precise timing for commencing public consultation.
Reporter: But my question is are you refusing to speed it up?
SCA: No, I am following the timetable which I have set up some months ago and I think within that broad timeframe, there is some latitude for us to adjust the precise timing for commencing the public consultation exercise.
I have heard the views of the Democratic Party that we should commence this public consultation exercise by the autumn. At the moment, I have not fixed a precise time for commencing the public consultation exercise. All I would say is that as things stand, we have adequate time in the next four years to deal with research, public consultation and local legislation. But I am very prepared to listen to whatever views which are being expressed in community in the course of last few weeks and in coming months.
Reporter: The most commonly heard criticisms that were picked up from the people who protested was that the Government does not listen and did not seem to be consulting generally. If they do not see progress towards consultation..., do they have to go out to the street again in order to get progress to be made?
SCA: I am listening carefully over last few weeks and I take it that today's meeting with the Democratic Party is a positive step of communicating with bodies concerned with the future of Hong Kong's constitutional development.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
End/Wednesday, July 16, 2003