|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 (March 27) (English portion):
Reporter: Mr Lam, could you sum up exactly what you have achieved? You did mention that there was a lot of views or discussion going on. But what do you think you have achieved in the past two meetings and what are the next steps?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: We have commenced our discussions with regard to the electoral methods for the return of the Chief Executive (CE) in 2012 and for forming the Legislative Council (LegCo) in 2012. In the past two meetings, we have gleaned quite a lot of useful views from among members of the Commission. We have also focused more on the essential aspects of the electoral methods. For example, in the previous meeting, with regard to consensus for returning the CE, there was quite a lot of views expressed that it is more important for us to deal with the electorate base for forming the Election Committee rather than focus too much on increasing the numbers of members extensively. This time round, we have made a useful start with regard to the electoral method for forming the LegCo in 2012. For example, most of the members who expressed their views were inclined towards increasing the size of the LegCo to cope with the work in the Council, to enhance the representation of the people and various sectors. So, we have made useful starts and the minds of members of the Commission are actually quite focused.
Reporter: Mr Lam, there are concerns that increasing the number of functional constituency seats without broadening the electorate base would only increase the number of people with vested interests. Did you address this issue today?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: As far as the HK Government is concerned, we have not yet taken any position on the formation of the LegCo and the electoral methods for 2012. What members of the Commission have expressed today basically can be summarised into about three main points.
Firstly, most of the members who expressed a view were inclined towards increasing the size of the LegCo, and more of them were inclined towards increasing the size to 70 members.
Secondly, among those who expressed such a view, there were various possibilities mooted. There were those who suggested that may be we should, for the functional constituencies, increase the number of seats returned by District Councillors electing among themselves. But there were also those who suggested that may be we should incorporate a women functional constituency, a small and medium-sized enterprises functional constituency or a functional constituency for Chinese medicine practitioners. So, for now, there is no consensus on the formulation for increasing the number of seats for functional constituencies.
The third point that I would relate to you is that there were quite a number of views expressed by members that we should consider broadening the electorate base for returning functional constituency representatives. One such possibility mooted was to transform the company and organisation votes into director's votes. These are views expressed. For now, I would say we've made a useful start. We haven't come yet to any complete consensus but we can continue our discussions in the months ahead.
Reporter: Mr Lam, you mentioned that the majority of the members today were inclined to increase the overall seats of the legislature, which means also seats for the functional constituencies. How are you going to decide which groups to include? For example, why herbalists and why not chiropractors? Why not have journalists as a functional constituency? How will you choose? And when you do choose, obviously the other side, the small and medum-sized enterprises will say, well, why not us?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: It is always not an easy question to resolve, which groups of people or which particular sector should be incorporated into the functional constituencies to be created. I think we should deal with these issues starting from a more macro level and then gradually focusing on the more micro aspect. For today, most of the members of the commission who expressed a view on the size of the legislature were inclined towards increasing of the number of seats. That's a useful start. But of course as the HK Government, we are very realistic. We know that the issue of which new functional constituency seats to be created is a controversial issue which requires discussion and which requires a readiness to compromise on the parts of different political parties and sectors. But for this time round, because we started the process in our five-year term very early in the day -- we have now only used up less than nine months in the five-year term, we do not need to put forth a concrete proposal for amending Annexes I and II of the Basic Law until, at the latest, 2010. The Commission's discussions will provide us with a useful basis on which we can consolidate various views and options and by the final quarter of this year, we will decide when to launch the next round of public consultations. Our experience in the last few years is that, if we have more opportunities for public discussions and consultations. Then the chances of narrowing differences and attaining consensus will be that much higher.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript)
Ends/Thursday, March 27, 2008