|Transcript of SCMA's remarks to reporters (English only)
Following is the transcript of the remarks of the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in response to media questions after addressing a Legislative Council motion debate on electoral arrangements today (January 23):
Reporter: There has been a lot of concern raised at the debate today about campaign violence. Is there anything more that the Government can do or that you feel should do, or are you already doing enough?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: I would say that in Hong Kong, over the years, we have abided by the traditions and principles of conducting our elections in a fair and impartial manner. Also, free and fair elections are what Hong Kong people treasure. In the last few years, we have seen a continued increase in the number of voters turning out in all major elections. And the Police have every support among the community to maintain vigilance in combating violence of any form, including electoral violence.
Reporter: Today, even the DAB showed photos of people ... and the Democrats ... the same thing ... there is a sentiment among candidates that this is rising, increasing problem. So are you saying that you are not going to do anything more, you are doing enough?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: Every time we have a major election, we review our electoral legislation and guidelines. We are just in the midst of conducting the review of our electoral subsidiary legislation and also our electoral guidelines for the 2008 Legislative Council Elections. We would be very prepared to consider any views put forth. I am sure that the Electoral Affairs Commission will want to maintain vigilance in combating electoral violence, and in maintaining fair, open and uncorrupt elections.
Reporter: ... about the conduct of people who may be supporters, some of whom might or might not actually come from the same district ... Can something more be done to look into that?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: The Police are following up the various complaints filed since the November District Council Elections and the Legislative Council By-election held in December last year. I have every confidence in the Police being able to follow up and pursue all these cases.
Reporter: On exit polling, some of these organisations that are given approval are frankly unknown. It appears that some legislators said there might have been some coordination among them. Even some names are popping up and crossed over with local party affiliation. Are you going to look into these concerns and would you put any tighter control in the future to be sure that people doing these exit polls are doing them for proper and not improper purposes?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: What I would say is that, the guidelines issued by the Electoral Affairs Commission already require any agencies, organisations or individuals conducting these exit polls to ensure that the exit polling results are not issued prior to the close of election.
Reporter: The issue is not just about publication. It's about people sharing the data for purposes, perhaps, of being able to affect the outcome of the election while it is still in progress?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: The electoral guidelines have been put in place to ensure that on the one hand, we would have free and fair elections, that the Hong Kong public would not be swayed by these exit polling results; and on the other hand, to ensure that organisations and individuals who wish to conduct research through exit polling exercises may do so within our electoral guidelines.
Reporter: What about a cooling-off day?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: As far as Hong Kong's electoral arrangements are concerned, we are still in the process of moving towards universal suffrage. In the last few years, we have been very successful in maintaining the growth in the number of electors taking part in general elections. We want the environment for promoting more competitive elections to take root in Hong Kong. And as things stand, we believe that introducing a cooling-off period at this stage of our constitutional development will not necessarily be conducive to maintaining this growth and interest among the public to take part in the elections.
Reporter: Does that "necessarily conducive" mean that it would dampen?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: I must say that as far as Hong Kong is concerned, the public participate very actively in general elections, and political parties do their very best to encourage the public to vote for their candidates. Therefore, as things stand, we should allow this free flow of views and efforts to secure support to continue until polling day.
Reporter: Finally, you were accused by Audrey Eu in her closing speech of "being complacent" ... Are you complacent?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: Certainly not. If I were complacent, I wouldn't have pushed for a universal suffrage timetable for Hong Kong.
Ends/Wednesday, January 23, 2008