Press Releases

Government's response to remarks by the Hon Emily Lau on universal suffrage

Commenting on the remarks made by the Hon Emily Lau on universal suffrage in her "Letter to Hong Kong" broadcast on RTHK today (April 9), a Government spokesman said that the Government was committed to promoting constitutional development according to the Basic Law.

Regarding Article 25(b) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the spokesman said that the Government maintained the position that when the Covenant 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 or Legislative Council (LegCo) in Hong Kong.

He said, "This reservation continues to apply. It allows Hong Kong to decide the method of forming the LegCo in the light of the actual situation and the principle of gradual and orderly progress.

"Hong Kong’s electoral system shall be determined in accordance with the Basic Law. Our electoral system is appropriate to Hong Kong’s circumstances and gives rise to no incompatibility with any of the provisions of the Covenant as applied to Hong Kong.

"That said, both the Central Authorities and the HKSAR Government are fully committed to promoting constitutional development in accordance with the Basic Law, with a view to achieving the ultimate aim of universal suffrage.

"The proposed package for the electoral methods for 2007/08 put forth by the Government in October last year would have greatly enhanced the democratic representation in the electoral methods for election of the Chief Executive (CE)and the LegCo, and brought significant progress to Hong Kong's constitutional development.

"It is regrettable that the package, which was supported by the majority of the public and more than half of the LegCo Members, was not endorsed by a two-thirds majority of all LegCo Members as required in Annexes I and II of the Basic Law," the spokesman said.

He said that the Government was fully alive to the public’s aspirations for universal suffrage.

In November last year, the CE initiated the discussion on formulating a roadmap for universal suffrage through the Committee on Governance and Political Development of the Commission on Strategic Development.

The Committee aimed to draw conclusions on the discussions by early 2007 and hoped that this would provide a basis to commence the next phase of work.

The spokesman added that the CE had tasked the Committee to discuss the issue of constitutional development because the Committee, which comprised members from different sectors of the community, could serve as an open forum to facilitate public discussion.

"Members of the Committee are drawn from a broad cross section of the community, comprising professionals, academics, businessmen, politicians from different political parties, LegCo Members, and prominent labour and media personalities.

He said that it was incorrect for Ms Lau to suggest that the Committee operated with little transparency and accountability.

"All papers discussed by the Committee are made public to facilitate discussion of the issue of universal suffrage within the community.

"Conclusions on the designs of a universal suffrage system for the CE and the LegCo made by the Committee will also be made public for further discussion," he said.

The spokesman said that LegCo had been fully informed of the issues discussed in the Committee. The Secretariat of the Committee had been providing papers discussed by the Committee to LegCo. Government officials had also been attending LegCo meetings to listen to Members’ views on the respective issues.

"As to how universal suffrage can be implemented for selecting the CE and the legislature, these are the issues being pursued through discussions in the Committee.

"The Government has not taken a view on the issues, including the long-term future of functional constituency seats in the LegCo, and is willing to consider different views from all sectors of the community," the spokesman said.

Ends/Sunday, April 9, 2006