|SCMA speaks on discussions at Constitutional Development Task Group meeting
Following is the transcript of the meet-the-media session held by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, after the meeting of the Task Group on Constitutional Development of the Commission on Strategic Development today (February 28) (English portion):
Reporter: Let me try to phrase the question this way and I’d hope that you would see what I mean. Is there a great deal to be gained from sort of re-arranging the deck chairs. You haven’t figured out exactly where the ship is going and where it’s supposed to dock?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: We actually all know where the ship is going. By 2017 we will be implementing universal suffrage for returning the Chief Executive, and by 2020 we would be in a position to implement universal suffrage for the formation of the Legislative Council. What this current term Government will be focusing on are the electoral methods for 2012. By and large Members who attended the Commission’s meeting today are agreed that we should focus on the arrangements for 2012. But on the part of the Government, we have also indicated that if Members have views regarding, for example, the electoral methods for 2017 and 2020, the Administration will be very prepared to listen to their views, bearing in mind though that our first and foremost task is to seek consensus at this point in time to focus on the arrangements for 2012. I should also say that today Members expressed very varied views on the composition of the Election Committee for 2012. There are those who suggest that we should keep the current membership of 800 members. There are those who suggest that we should increase the size from 800 to 1000, 1600 or 1800. But many Members are of the view that it would facilitate a smooth transition if the Election Committee in 2012 could be transformed into the Nominating Committee for nominating Chief Executive candidates in 2017 for universal suffrage elections.
Reporter: So... 2017 arises yet again. It just seems quite logical that it would be easier to find a compromise for 2012 if people had a clear picture of what you were looking at in 2017. I mean I might be able to give a little more now if I knew that there was something coming back later.
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: The fact of the matter is the electoral arrangements for returning the Chief Executive in 2017 through universal suffrage will not be the responsibility of the third-term HKSAR Government. It will be for the Chief Executive to be elected in 2012 and the Legislative Council to be formed in 2012 to address questions and the specific arrangements for returning the Chief Executive in 2017 through universal suffrage. However, of course we recognise that different political party members and representatives of various sectors in our community would wish to express views on their aspirations for 2017 in the context of putting forth their ideas for 2012. And as a government, we of course are very prepared to listen.
Reporter: Is it sort of a spectre of further NPC interpretation hanging over this discussion?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: I don’t think there are any Standing Committee interpretations in the offing. The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress has already made a clear decision on the universal suffrage timetable and the parameters for us to deal with the electoral arrangements in 2012. At this stage, the most important thing is for us to commence these discussions in Hong Kong, broadly engage the community. We are actually on dual-track discussions, both within the Commission on Strategic Development and also in the Constitution Affairs Panel of the Legislative Council. I firmly believe that with more rounds of these public engagement exercises and consultations, we stand an even better chance of attaining consensus for 2012.
Reporter: I raised the question of spectre because if people thought that their suggestions might go too far in a particular direction, that they might be inviting an interpretation, and that would delay and perhaps... the whole process?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: I think that’s purely speculative on your part, Francis.
Reporter: I raised this because some Members raised it coming out from the meeting.
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: The Members of the Commission are generally agreed that we should continue to work on the basis of the principle of balanced participation. There are many who consider that the current composition, whereby there are four major sectors each comprising 25 per cent of the Election Committee, is indicative of the principle of balanced participation. But I should add that, for today, there are no firm conclusions. We’ve just begun the process of engagement and discussions.
Reporter: … About the timetable?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: We have started our discussions today focusing on the electoral method for returning the Chief Executive in 2012. In March and April, we will be focusing on the electoral method for forming the Legislative Council in 2012. We will have a workshop in May to engage think tanks, different organisations and individuals who wish to put forth their views to the Commission on Strategic Development for consideration. We hope to draw some conclusions by the meeting in June. We will work as we progress.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript)
ENDS/Thursday, February 28, 2008