|Government encourages response to Green Paper
Commenting on the remarks made by Legislative Councillor, Dr Kwok Ka-ki, on RTHK's "Letter to Hong Kong" broadcast today (September 16), a spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said the Government was determined to implement universal suffrage in publishing the Green Paper on Constitutional Development and had been consulting the community widely and systematically through a variety of channels to encourage response and to listen to the people's views on the consultation document.
The spokesman stressed that the Green Paper, with its clear objective of identifying for the community a set of solutions on how and when universal suffrage should be implemented, underlined the Government's sincerity and determination.
The spokesman said that contrary to Dr Kwok's allegation that the Government was being inactive in dealing with the "Green Paper consultations", the Government had made active efforts to introduce the consultation document and listen to public views. The Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Henry Tang, and other principal officials had attended regional forums and meetings with concerned sectors, such as the women's federation, professional groups, labour unions and Chambers of Commerce.
Furthermore, the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, had so far attended meetings of 16 District Councils and six meetings of the Legislative Council's Constitutional Affairs Panel, as well as dozens of seminars, forums and meetings arranged by residents' groups, professional bodies, a number of Legco functional constituency sectors and Election Committee subsectors including trade unions, and employers' federation. Mr Lam had also attended two open forums for members of the public to express their views. The Secretary will be attending more of such functions before the Green Paper consultation period ends on October 10.
"It is, therefore, wrong of Dr Kwok to suggest that the Government has not been active in promoting people's awareness of the consultation document," the spokesman said.
"His accusation that the Chief Executive, Mr Donald Tsang, has stayed away from the subject is also unfounded," he added. "The publication of the Green Paper had indeed delivered one of Mr Tsang's key electoral promises, and the fact that it was issued in just 11 days after inauguration of the third-term HKSAR Government underlines our commitment to deal with the issue of universal suffrage in accordance with the Basic Law," he stressed.
As for Dr Kwok's observation that a view "is being created" in the community for the retention of functional constituencies, the spokesman said that "retaining functional constituency seats, but changing the electoral method" was only one type of options outlined in the Green Paper. Other options presented included forming the Legislative Council entirely by geographical constituency seats and allowing District Councillors to elect more legislators from amongst themselves. The document had explained clearly both the arguments in support of and against the different types of options, the spokesman said.
On whether the Government would conduct opinion polls on its own, the spokesman said that universities and independent bodies had been conducting opinion polls to gauge public support for various electoral models.
"Their findings will provide useful references for the Government," he said, "and we will track the level of public support for the various proposals closely."
In response to Dr Kwok's "predicted outcome" of the consultation, the spokesman pointed out that that was mere speculation. He stressed that the Government had been very open in setting out the timetables, roadmaps and models for implementing universal suffrage and had not taken any decisions on these key issues. Conclusions would only be drawn after completion of the three-month consultation exercise.
"The Government will then summarise the views received from the community and assess whether differences in opinions have narrowed adequately.
"If so, we can put forth a package of proposals, which, hopefully, stands a good chance of compliance with the Basic Law. This means that it will have to secure two-thirds majority support in the Legislative Council, consent by the Chief Executive and endorsement by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress," he said.
"We also hope that any proposal for implementing universal suffrage will receive majority support among the public.
"Therefore, it is important for political parties and groups, as well as different quarters of our community, to keep an open mind and be prepared to accommodate other views. It is only through rational and pragmatic public discourse that we can forge consensus on the further constitutional development of Hong Kong," he added.
Ends/Sunday, September 16, 2007