|Transcript of SCA's standup briefing
The Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, today (July 24) gave a standup briefing on a paper concerning possible models for selecting the Chief Executive by universal suffrage, which will be discussed by the Committee on Governance and Political Development of the Commission on Strategic Development at a meeting this Friday (July 28). The following is the transcript of the briefing (English portion):
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: We have just issued a paper today for the fifth meeting of the Committee on Governance and Political Development of the Commission on Strategic Development. The committee, in the course of last six months, has covered quite a few important principles and concepts about universal suffrage.
Firstly, members have basically agreed that in dealing with universal suffrage, we need to comply with the basic policies of the State regarding Hong Kong.
Secondly, we discussed four principles which are of specific relevance to constitutional development. Firstly, we need to meet the interests of different sectors of society. Secondly, we need to facilitate the development of the capitalist economy. Thirdly, we need to meet the principle of gradual and orderly progress. And fourthly, we need to ensure that in implementing universal suffrage, the methodology is appropriate to the actual situation in Hong Kong.
The third area which we discussed is that in implementing universal suffrage, we need to comply with the principle of having an executive-led government in Hong Kong.
And fourthly, we also discussed the principles of universal and equal suffrage in dealing with the electoral systems.
In issuing the paper today, we are bringing the discussions in the Commission on Strategic Development concerning universal suffrage to a new stage. We are beginning to focus on specific methodologies for implementing universal suffrage for returning the Chief Executive. Specifically we set out questions in three areas for consideration. Firstly, the composition of the Nominating Committee for putting forward candidates for election for Chief Executive. Secondly, the method for nominating candidates to stand in Chief Executive election. And thirdly, the specific method for conducting the election by universal suffrage after the nomination.
Having dealt with the method for implementing universal suffrage for the Chief Executive, we will then turn to the universal suffrage for the Legislative Council. So I will expect that in the next six months, we will focus on two main questions: firstly, how the Nominating Committee for putting forward candidates for Chief Executive is to be composed to ensure that it is broadly representative of Hong Kong society. Secondly, in moving towards universal suffrage, how we should deal with functional constituency seats currently in the Legislative Council.
The government has not taken a view on these issues. We intend to encourage political parties, other organisations and individuals to put forth specific packages of proposals so that we can consider these ideas within the Commission on Strategic Development. We believe that if all parties concerned carry an attitude of being willing to accommodate mutual differences, we stand a good chance of achieving consensus.
We will aim to draw conclusions on discussions in the Commission on Strategic Development by early 2007, and we are hopeful that in issuing the report and putting forth these conclusions to Beijing, we will lay a firm foundation for us to take forward constitutional development sometime in 2007 and between 2007 and 2012.
Reporter: Actually does the Government have the determination to press ahead with electing the Chief Executive in 2012 by universal suffrage? Or will it continue to take a wait-and-see attitude like some critics have said? Because we all know that the business sector always have different views from the pro-democracy camp on these issues of how we achieve universal suffrage.
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: At the moment, we are bringing the discussions on universal suffrage to a new stage. We are focusing on specific methodologies for implementing universal suffrage to return the Chief Executive. It is very important that first, we try to achieve consensus on how these methodologies should be implemented. We must know where we want to get to, what is the final destination, what is the form for forming the Nominating Committee and for electing the Chief Executive by universal suffrage. Once we have consensus on that methodology, then we will be in a better position to decide how and to what stages, how much time we will need to take to reach that final destination. That is why we are determined now to begin this discussion on methodologies for returning the Chief Executive by universal suffrage.
Reporter: Mr Lam, based on what you said just now, does it mean that you don't think there is any need for the Government to pay particular attention to Mrs Chan's core group and possibly there would not be much opportunity for co-operation between the two sides? And secondly, can you also tell us honestly it's very difficult for a consensus to be reached on these matters on universal suffrage. So what then after six months if there is no consensus?
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: Firstly, our basic position is that we encourage all political parties, different organisations and individuals to put forth specific methods and packages of proposals for implementing universal suffrage. That applies to everybody across the board, and all proposals which we receive will be put to members of the Commission on Strategic Development for consideration. In the next six months, we will do our very best to promote discussions on the specific methods for implementing universal suffrage for retuning the Chief Executive and for returning the Legislative Council.
We do not underestimate the difficulties of achieving consensus. But we believe there is a possibility for such consensus to be achieved. First and foremost, this is the ultimate aim already stipulated in the Basic Law. Secondly, Hong Kong community as a whole subscribes to this ultimate aim. Thirdly, our experience of dealing with the package which we put forth last year for 07/08 generated considerable support among the local population. According to different opinion polls, about 60 per cent of the local population supported this package. So I believe if we find a way of moving forward and move towards universal suffrage, Hong Kong people will be enthusiastic and will want the political parties to come to a conclusion. There will be this possibility.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Monday, July 24, 2006