Following is the transcript (English only) of a stand-up briefing by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, after attending the LegCo meeting tonight (June 23):
Reporter: Do you think this love ... that we had here tonight, does it represent it's a new beginning?
SCA: I think it's a welcome development that different political parties all address the importance of communication and of accommodating differences of views along the political spectrum. This is a trait which we should all embrace. It is also a feature which hopefully will eventually lead us to the establishment of a consensus on the question of constitutional development and how we can roll forward our electoral systems.
Reporter: Where do you think things will go from here?
SCA: I think politics is a very dynamic area. It depends on how different political parties and political forces work from this point onwards. But it is a welcome fact that all parties concerned have expressed the readiness to communicate and the willingness to consider differences of opinions from all sides.
Reporter: What does the government prepare to do?
SCA: The government is prepared to continue to promote the dialogue among different political parties on the question of constitutional development. We will do our utmost to protect the core values of Hong Kong, freedoms, rule of law, and human rights. We will also, where possible, promote communication between the Central Authorities and different political parties in Hong Kong in the same way as we did so when the representatives of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress came in April this year.
Reporter: One of the Members has expressed the worry that what might happen in the election in terms of fraud, pressure etc. So what are some of the changes that are being planned to bring about in the election to prevent some of them from happening?
SCA: Hong Kong has the fine tradition of clean and corruption free elections. This is a core value which we will protect to the utmost of our abilities. The Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Police Force are very vigilant in following up any cases of law enforcement which are reported to them, and they will continue to do so.
Reporter: What about in the ballot place?
SCA: As regards polling arrangements for the Legislative Council election this September, the Electoral Affairs Commission will be taking a few steps to enhance the protection of secrecy of votes.
Firstly, we will advise all voters to switch off their mobile phones as and when they enter polling stations. This is something which will prevent any parties concerned to use mobile phones to communicate with the outside world or to take any photographs of the ballot paper. Secondly, we will remove the veil separating the polling booths and the rest of the party in the polling station.
Reporter: You are referring to the little curtains around them?
SCA: Yes, the curtains will be removed. But in order to protect the secrecy of votes cast, we will mark a yellow line one metre to two metres distant from a voting booth itself so that the polling staff can observe the general behaviour inside the booth but it will be distanced enough not to observe the actual votes cast.
Reporter: What about intimidation that comes over the border?
SCA: Well, the Police and the ICAC are following up very vigilantly any cases reported to them. I am sure that if there is any actual enforcement action that they need to take, they will do so.
Reporter: Have you communicated it strongly to the Central People's Government the level of concern the people here have about that?
SCA: The Central Authorities are very clear that they support every move that the Hong Kong Government takes to enforce the law here according to the Basic Law and to protect the freedom of speech in Hong Kong.
Reporter: Have you communicated with them directly and told them of the level of concern that people have?
SCA: Well, we have had communication with the relevant departments of the Central Authorities and they are fully aware of the concern in Hong Kong. They underline the importance which the Central Authorities attach to the governance of Hong Kong according to the Basic Law and the legislation pertaining in Hong Kong.
Ends/Wednesday, June 23, 2004