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Transcript of SCA's briefing after attending City Forum

Following is the transcript (English portion) of a standup briefing given by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, after he attended RTHK's City Forum at noon today (April 10):

Reporter: Do you feel relieved as the State Council has announced its decision or still there is uncertainty ahead?

SCA: I will say that the HKSAR Government welcomes the decision taken by the State Council to submit an item to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for Article 53 of the Basic Law to be interpreted and to specifiy the term which the newly elected Chief Executive should serve. We have always envisaged that it will be possible for this matter to come to a conclusion within two to three weeks in April.

We are now past stage one. The State Council has made a decision. Stage two will depend on the Chairman and Vice-chairpersons of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress whether they will decide to incorporate this item in the agenda for the Standing Committee's meeting towards the end of April. The third stage will be for the Standing Committee itself to deliberate on the matter and to consider the proposition.

We believe that if the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress issues an interpretation on this matter, this will enable us to organise the election on July 10 very smoothly. All candidates will know for sure what sort of term he or she will be serving if elected. Secondly, this will provide a very clear and firm constitutional basis for the Chief Executive Election Ordinance to be amended in Hong Kong to specify that the newly elected Chief Executive shall serve the remainder of the term. Finally, this will also enable us to deal with any judicial review cases in Hong Kong on a firm constitutional footing.

Reporter: What about one gentleman commenting that the new Chief Executive in July can serve two consecutive terms? Will that violate the Basic Law?

SCA: This is an opinion given by a Mainland legal expert. The colleagues of the Department of Justice are considering this issue. They will have regard both to the views issued by Mainland legal experts and views issued by the Hong Kong legal profession. It is not a matter on which we need to have an immediate resolution. During the second half of 2005, we will be reviewing the method for electing the Chief Executive - the third term Chief Executive in 2007. When we are in the process of doing that review, we can consider within Hong Kong and with relevant departments in Beijing this question of continuation of the term.

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

Ends/Sunday, April 10, 2005