|SCA speaks on Commission on Strategic Development papers
Following is the transcript of a media briefing given today (April 3) by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, on two papers to be discussed at the meeting of the Committee on Governance and Political Development of the Commission on Strategic Development to be held on April 12 (English portion):
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: We have invited all of you to come here today so that we can give you a briefing on the latest set of papers which we have issued with regard to universal suffrage for the Chief Executive (CE) and universal suffrage for returning the Legislative Council (Legco). The two sets of papers have been issued to the Commission on Strategic Development (Commission) for a meeting to be held on April 12 next week.
In today's papers, we have categorised all the recommendations and proposals we have received in the last few months in three categories. The first category of proposals for the CE universal suffrage model involves establishing a nominating committee which will have fewer than 800 members. For example, the Democratic Party recommended earlier on that the 60 members of the Legco should constitute the nominating committee.
The second category of the proposals involves forming the nominating committee by 800 members. Basically, this means transforming the current EC into the nominating committee.
The third category of proposals involves forming a nominating committee which will be larger than 800 members, for example, 1,200 to 1,600 members by incorporating, amongst other representatives, the District Councilors in all 18 districts. There are also suggestions that may be we should increase the size of the nominating committee to 3,200 members.
As for the Legco universal suffrage model, the fundamental question which remains unresolved is the future of functional constituencies. We have also classified the various proposals we have received in the past months into three categories.
The first category involves abolishing all 30 functional constituency seats and replacing them by geographical elections.
The second category of proposals involves allowing functional constituencies to exist but that, for example, functional constituency bodies should nominate candidates and the candidates nominated should be returned as Legco Councilors by "one man, one vote".
The third category of proposals involves replacing the functional constituencies in different phases – basically, phasing them out over several terms of the Legco.
Now, we have issued this latest set of papers in order to enable members of the Commission, other bodies and members of the public to have a better appreciation of where we are and how we move from this point onwards. We very much hope that in the next few months, we would be able to narrow mutual differences further and that we would be able to lay a better foundation for the constitutional development Green Paper to be launched some time after July.
Reporter: According to your papers, are you suggesting that it is impossible to achieve universal suffrage for the CE in 2012. Also, what do you mean by the transitional arrangements?
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: What we have done today is basically to set out to everybody the clearest possible picture as to how many and what different types of proposals we have received. The HKSAR Government has not taken a view, for example, on the size and composition of the nominating committee and the nomination threshold. As far as we are concerned, we are still in listening mode both with regard to models and a roadmap, also with regard to the question of a timetable for implementing universal suffrage. We still have a few months to go before we issue the Green Paper on constitutional development. In the meantime, we hope we can narrow differences.
Reporter: What do you mean by transitional arrangements? In the papers there are conclusions that there are different transitional arrangements for obtaining universal suffrage. What do you mean by that?
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: Basically, as far as we are concerned, there are proposals which suggest that may be we should expand the EC, say to 1,200 or 1,600 members and use that to implement a more representative form of returning the CE by an extended version of the EC. And then, perhaps that extended form of an EC could be used as a basis for forming the nominating committee in future. But I emphasise, these are merely suggestions put forward by individuals or other groups to the HKSAR Government. The Government has not taken a view on these issues.
Reporter: Are you afraid to have universal suffrage with the CE in 2012 rather than having the Legco universal suffrage in 2012? ...
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: We have made it clear that in order for universal suffrage to be implemented, it is necessary for us to obtain support of the Legco and the community. That is why the CE, during his election campaign, made it clear that in future, as and when we propose a model for implementing universal suffrage we would wish to secure 60 per cent of public support. Of course, at the same time, the Basic Law itself prescribes that we should have two-thirds majority support in the Legco for changes to be made to these electoral matters. So, support both within and from outside the Legco is necessary. As far as the timetable for implementing universal suffrage is concerned, as at today, the HKSAR Government has not taken any view or any position. We have reflected fully in these papers all the proposals which we have received. At the same time, we have made one point clear, and this is that, up to this very moment, we have been able to make more progress with discussions concerning implementing universal suffrage for the CE. For a start, most political parties and groups agree that we should establish a nominating committee in accordance with the Basic Law.
However, as far as the implementation of universal suffrage for the Legco is concerned, there is still quite a wide divergence of views on the future of functional constituencies. There are those who say we should retain functional constituencies in the long run and there are those who say we should abolish functional constituencies in one go. So, unless we made some breakthrough on this particular front, it will be difficult for us to make progress towards a consensus on universal suffrage for the Legco. And this is basically what the papers point out - that we stand a better chance of securing consensus on the implementation of universal suffrage for the CE but a lesser chance for securing such consensus for universal suffrage for the Legco.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Tuesday, April 3, 2007