Following is the transcript of remarks by the Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung; the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam; and the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, at a media session at Government House today (October 16):
Reporter: Mr Leung, we are stepping into the 20th day of "Occupy Central" movement tomorrow, so when do you think the group will meet with the Federation of Students, and do you think it would bring the city closer to end the movement? And, Mrs Lam, would you mind to also respond to the Federation of Students that it's unnecessary to have a middleman?
Chief Executive: It's always been my wish and the wish of the Hong Kong SAR Government and definitely the wish of the Hong Kong community for the Government to start and maintain a dialogue, not just with the representatives of the student body in Hong Kong but also various other sectors of the Hong Kong community. And that was why about two weeks ago we called a press conference at this very same location to agree to discuss with representatives of the students the question of universal suffrage to elect the Chief Executive in 2017, because the students offered a dialogue on the basis of discussing this very same subject, but not other unrelated issues. So, as long as the students or other sectors in Hong Kong are prepared to focus on this issue, then, yes, we are ready and we are prepared to start a dialogue and maintain that dialogue. And this is why, over the last few days and including this morning, through third parties we expressed the wish to the students that we'd like to start the dialogue to discuss universal suffrage as soon as we can, and hopefully within the following week. The remaining question.
Chief Secretary for Administration: Now that we have announced the decision to resume a dialogue with the Hong Kong Federation of Students, I'm very happy to have a direct dialogue or direct communication with the students themselves. But sometimes, I hope you will realise, that when both sides are not entirely certain of each side's position on certain matters a middleman could be a helpful channel to exchange those views and enhance communication.
Chief Executive: And just to make my answer to the English question complete, to supplement my answer to your question, holding and maintaining a dialogue is one of the three main areas of work of the Hong Kong SAR Government going forward, and there are two other areas which are also equally important. And these two areas obviously are also related to our constitutional development, namely universal suffrage to elect the Chief Executive in 2017. One is to restore order in Hong Kong according to the laws of Hong Kong as quickly as we can, including normalising traffic in Hong Kong. We have seen positive results of police actions in clearing roadblocks erected by people who occupy various thoroughfares and roads and streets of Hong Kong. So that's another area. The third area of work which we will endeavour to push forward is equally important, and this is to start the second round of consultation with a view to take forward our constitutional development, as the Secretary has said, in the fourth quarter of this year. And so we are going to in parallel push ahead in all these three areas: dialogue, restoring law and order in Hong Kong, and the second round of consultation.
Reporter: Is there any point having dialogue with the students, because you've already said there is zero chance that Hong Kong will be awarded the universal franchise by the Central Government, the Chinese Government. So what are you going to talk about?
Chief Executive: Sorry, I missed your second part of your question.
Reporter: I'm wondering, is there any point having the dialogue with the students, with the protesters, because you've already said there is zero chance of Hong Kong being awarded the universal franchise? So I'm wondering what will you be talking about.
Chief Executive: The NPC, the National People's Congress Standing Committee decision gives Hong Kong universal franchise in 2017 according to the Basic Law, and the Basic Law says that universal franchise will follow nomination by nominating committee, and that is what it is. So it is universal franchise; it will be "one man, one vote" instead of 1,200 Election Committee members electing the Chief Executive.
Reporter: That doesn't meet the Western conception of what universal franchise is, though.
Chief Executive: Well, we don't find civic nomination in all Western democracies either.
Reporter: Is there a possibility of discussing a significant change in the rules going forward, say in 2022? Do you think that there is a possibility of compromise on that score?
Chief Executive: 2022?
Reporter: Yes, after 2017 is set ...
Chief Executive: Again, please read the Basic Law, and please read the various decisions of the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC). The Basic Law says that when there is a need to change the method of electing the Chief Executive, then we go through the process, namely we have two-thirds super-majority of LegCo members, we have the consent of the Chief Executive and then we'll have approval of the National People's Congress Standing Committee. So it doesn't say that 2017 is the only and last time to change the method of electing the Chief Executive, so if we do it in 2017, we can change it again in 2022, and that's insofar as the constitutional arrangements are concerned. And if we don't do it in 2017, we could try to do it in 2022. So, in short, 2017 is not the only and last time.
Reporter: Mr Tam, do you think it is possible to file a supplement document to the NPCSC? Do you think it is possible to hand in such a supplement document?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: As I have just explained, in terms of constitutional process, there is no such step between the second step and the third step for the SAR Government to submit yet again another report by the Chief Executive to the NPC Standing Committee because there is no such thing under the Interpretation made by the Standing Committee on the 6th of April, 2004. So constitutionally there is no such thing.
The second point is that we are not too certain about the purpose of making such a supplementary report. If the purpose as put forward by some in the community is as such to ask the NPC Standing Committee to amend, to adjust or to withdraw its decision made on the 31st of August, I don't think it's realistic nor is it appropriate constitutionally for the Standing Committee to do that. So before or unless and until we have a better idea about what kind of document that the proposers are putting forward, we will not comment further on this proposal.
Reporter: ... a lot of what we have been hearing is the process of constitutional reform. You've been citing, along with the Secretary, the ins and outs of the process. Number one, do you really feel that the students who have been invited to sit down and engage in talks, is this what they want to hear? Number one. And number two, do you realise that you need to put yourself ...?
Chief Executive: I lost you on number one because it's a bit noisy on this side.
Reporter: You have been talking a lot, we have been hearing a lot about the constitutional reform process, the details involved. That's not the students want to hear. They want to hear something very constructive ... what they want. Number one. And number two: When you do go to Beijing and you pass on the message, you do realise you have to carry yourself with a different tone and express a different viewpoint for Hong Kong? How are you going to make sure that happens?
Chief Executive: Sorry, I lost you again on number two. Let me answer your first question. The most constructive thing that the Hong Kong Government can offer the students is to sit down and listen to the students what we can do together within the framework decision of the National People's Congress Standing Committee. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government cannot make something that is not in the Basic Law possible. Politics is the art of the possible, and we have to draw a line between possibilities and impossibilities. The Central Authorities - and this is not the Hong Kong SAR Government - the Central Authorities have said clearly that they will not retract the decision of the Standing Committee - decision on the 31st of August. So that's what they said and we would like to explore with them what else we can do together so that the 5 million eligible voters in Hong Kong will have the first opportunity in Hong Kong's history to vote in the Chief Executive in 2017, and this has never happened before. It is not, I'll say this again, it is not provided for in the Joint Declaration. The Sino-British Joint Declaration does not have the words "universal suffrage" or "direct election" of the Chief Executive. What the Joint Declaration does say is that the Chief Executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will be elected on the basis of consultation or election held locally. That's what it said.
Reporter: But Mr Leung, you're still defending the same line there, though. The people of Hong Kong have made it clear they want you to take a different line, to express a different viewpoint to China, but you're still defending the whole Standing Committee line ...
Chief Executive: I'll ask my Secretary (Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs) to supplement my answer. The views of the Hong Kong people have been communicated to the National People's Congress very clearly after five months of consultation. We sent to Beijing not just the report of the Hong Kong SAR Government but the views expressed in their original forms, in the form of appendices, to Beijing. And we also organised, and this was the initiative of the Hong Kong SAR Government, face-to-face dialogue between various sectors and parties in Hong Kong and leaders of the Central Authorities who are in charge of this matter. One example was the meeting in Shanghai, which I personally initiated. I know it was boycotted by some members of LegCo, but a good number of the so-called pan-democratic camp of LegCo attended, and they had a chance of a direct dialogue with the leaders of the Central Authorities. And no one, no one, has said specifically what has been left out of the report or the appendices that we submitted to the Central Authorities.
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: I want to supplement that the prevailing view from the Hong Kong Federation of Students is one that they would like to have civic nomination to be part of the nomination process for the 2017 Chief Executive election. I think such a view has been discussed inside-out in the past 12 or 18 months already in various sectors of the community, including several occasions where various sectors of the community as well as all the various political parties of the Legislative Council have face-to-face mentioned this point loud and clear to the responsible officers from the Central People's Government in the past few months as well. And the NPC Standing Committee has taken into account all those views, pros and cons, from the Hong Kong community and has come up with the decision made on the 31st of August.
So, we would have to press forward, to take the matter forward so as to catch up with the timetable that we would like to have universal suffrage for 2017. If we continue to drag on on something that is impossible in the coming few months, then the answer would be quite clear, or the reality is that we would not have universal suffrage for 2017. I don't think that is what the majority of Hong Kong people would like to see. I think the majority of Hong Kong people would like to see "one man, one vote" for the Chief Executive election in 2017. And if we could enlarge our horizon around the world, for more than 160 or 170-something jurisdictions, not many have civic nomination as part of their political structure, especially for the election of the head of government or the head of state. So, if we insist on such a thing in the electoral system for 2017, I think we are really heading towards the wrong direction. I think we all have to have full regard to the Basic Law and the constitutional framework, and have full regard to the political reality. At the end of the day, we need two-thirds majority of LegCo members to support our proposal, and that would be a cross-political party support - not just the pan-democratic, not just the pro-establishment, but all political parties would have to work together to make it happen. That's the point we are trying to make.
Also, outside the LegCo, I also look forward to a dialogue with the students, trying to explain to them the legal confines that we are facing. And we both have to be realistic. There are many years ahead for our young students. They have all the years, all the time. In the fullness of time, they should not just put all their focus on 2017. If they can just step back a little bit and look beyond 2017, maybe many of their aspirations could be addressed in future years as well. As the Chief Executive has just mentioned, 2017 is not the final stop. It is the beginning of a new chapter for democracy in Hong Kong, and I hope the students would see that and seize that opportunity next week when we begin our dialogue.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Thursday, October 16, 2014
Issued at HKT 19:02