Following are the opening remarks by the Chief Executive, Mr Donald Tsang, at the media session on the passage of the constitutional reform package at the Central Government Offices New Annexe today (June 25):
This is a historic moment. The Legislative Council (LegCo) has approved the constitutional reform package with a three-quarters majority. This lays down a milestone in Hong Kong's democratic development.
For the first time since the reunification, LegCo has managed to go through the procedures stipulated in the Basic Law to amend the methods for selecting the Chief Executive and for forming LegCo.
Disputes and infighting over political reform have plagued our society for the past two decades. The stalemate in 2005 left us wondering whether our democratic development was doomed.
But it's now clear that consensus and reform are possible as long as we stay true to our goal of pursuing democracy and our belief in dialogue and rationalism.
This exercise has demonstrated the Central Government's trust in Hong Kong, and its sincerity and determination in promoting democratic reforms and achieving universal suffrage under the Basic Law. The Central Government is open to communication with different parties in Hong Kong in order to ease political tensions.
This exercise also shows that as long as we do not lose mutual trust, we can work together for greater democracy and, ultimately, universal suffrage in Hong Kong.
The 2012 constitutional reform package does not only improve our electoral system, it also lays a solid foundation for the community to pursue detailed arrangements for universal suffrage according to the established timetable.
Over the past three days, while the views expressed in LegCo remained diverse, there was one shared view. Members and parties are willing to discuss constitutional reform within the parameters of the Basic Law and the 2007 Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. Indeed, this is the basis for dialogue and consensus.
The passage of the reform package is a valuable experience for the Government, political parties and the community in the implementation of the Basic Law.
In a broader sense, the passage of this constitutional reform package has fostered trust, communication and tolerance in our society.
For too long, partisan politics, political infighting, and distrust of the Central and SAR governments have marred the discussions not only in LegCo but also public affairs at large.
This time round, some parties and scholars have shown us how constructive political dialogue and mutual trust can bring real benefits to the community.
This has opened a new door for us. I believe that if our political parties "act now", and work on our pressing social and economic issues in the same spirit, Hong Kong will become a much better place for us all.
What we see today is not a victory of any individual or any one party. It is a triumph of reason for the entire Hong Kong community. But all this would not have been possible without the dedication and hard work of many men and women. They work in various political parties, in the Government, in the office representing the Central Government in Hong Kong, and in the Central Authorities. They share the same objective of promoting democratic development in Hong Kong.
The journey that took us here today was long, bumpy and at times painful. There were doubts, criticisms and confrontations. There were bitter frustrations in the political realities always falling short of individual political ideals. There were reluctant compromises. There were skepticism, attacks and verbal abuses of all sorts. Rifts emerged both among and within parties.
Yet, there are people who have worked selflessly for greater democracy for Hong Kong. I thank them. History will give them the fair and positive judgment they deserve.
Reforms are never easy. They mean taking risks and venturing out of our "comfort zones". Reformers often have to face opposition and attacks; others have to preserve the common benefits of the community with courage, humility and patriotic passion. Many have to make difficult adjustments for the common good.
In a pluralistic society like Hong Kong, it would be unrealistic to expect political reform to be painless. But history will prove that the reform today is a decisive step in the right direction.
I hope that from now on, divisions, attacks and hatred will become bygones. Saint Paul once said: "forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead". Let's put behind us what is past and focus on the tasks ahead. After all, we all call Hong Kong home. We all cherish democracy. There is no reason why we cannot close ranks for our common goal of full democracy in Hong Kong.
There are pressing tasks ahead of us. We will soon complete the remaining steps of the five-step mechanism to amend the Annexes to the Basic Law. I, as the Chief Executive, will give consent to the amendments, which will be reported to the NPC Standing Committee.
Before the LegCo summer recess, we will consult the Constitutional Affairs Panel of LegCo on the details for the two elections in 2012.
When LegCo resumes in autumn, we will submit to LegCo legislative proposals on the two election methods and the abolition of the District Council appointment system.
The vote today is both an end and a beginning. Hong Kong will no longer be the same. More and more people will join us on this journey to democracy and to the promised land of universal suffrage. With growing strength and confidence, we shall overcome each and every challenge coming our way. Thank you.
Ends/Friday, June 25, 2010
Issued at HKT 17:17