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Transcript of SCA's briefing (English only)

The following is the transcript of a standup briefing by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, after the question and answer session of the Legislative Council meeting today (November 9) (English only):

Reporter: I want to know about what has actually been done by the bureau in terms of the process of amending the Basic Law so far?

SCA: Since 2001, we have stayed in touch with relevant departments of the Central People’s Government, and we have reflected fully to the Central Authorities the views of the Legislative Councillors on this matter, and we have taken forward the discussion on the question of establishing a procedure for amending the Basic Law.

But we need to bear in mind that the Basic Law is the "mini-constitution" of Hong Kong. These arrangements have been put in place following very detailed discussions in Hong Kong community and with Beijing back in the 1980s, and the Basic Law was adopted in 1990 as Hong Kong’s "mini–constitution".

The provisions of the Basic Law are not to be amended lightly, and there are long-term policies which underpin the success of Hong Kong as an international financial centre under "One Country, Two Systems" and with a high degree of autonomy, and basically delegating very extensive authorities to Hong Kong for governing Hong Kong as a special administrative region. So these provisions should not be amended lightly, and there are safeguards which ensure that we continue to retain this high degree of autonomy under "One Country, Two Systems".

Reporter: The legislators have criticised that the issue has been taken for too long, about five years. Do you agree with that?

SCA: I would say that these questions concerning matters of constitutional amendment are very important issues, and we need not, and should not make any decisions lightly, even on questions of procedures. Furthermore, this is a matter which concerns both Beijing and Hong Kong, and we do need to take this forward after thorough discussions with relevant departments of Beijing.

Reporter: Any way to speed up the process? When do you think the result will come out?

SCA: At the moment, all I can say is that we will continue to engage Beijing on this question. There are matters which deserve more immediate priority, for example, the question of electoral methods to be adopted for returning the Chief Executive in 2007 and for forming the Legislative Council in 2008. These amendments to Annexes I and II of the Basic Law are our current priorities. After we have dealt with this most important agenda, we will of course continue to take forward our discussions with Beijing on the questions of procedures for amending the Basic Law.

Ends/Wednesday, November 9, 2005