Following is the transcript of remarks (English portion) by the Chief Executive, Mr Tung Chee Hwa, at a press conference held today (July 17) at the Conference Hall, Central Government Offices New Annex:
I was glued to the television on July 1 and greatly shocked by the mass procession. I was sleepless that night. Citizens of Hong Kong expressed aspirations and concerns in the march. It is impossible for me to respond to each item one by one in a short time, but our objective is to look at all these carefully and respond to them as much as possible in due course. But let me talk about several issues today.
Citizens of Hong Kong have voiced dissatisfaction and criticism about my governance and our Administration in the past six years. My colleagues and I accept these criticisms sincerely. We are seriously reviewing and looking at all these events with a view to learning from our experience. We are also actively preparing in time to respond to their aspirations and their concerns. One thing I am going to do is to meet the various political parties, major sectors of the community, the media and opinion leaders regularly. I shall keep in touch with citizens through various means to listen to their voices directly. I have also instructed all policy bureaux to actively strive to open channels of discussion on political issues, and to engage professional and committed persons in various advisory and statutory committees and organisations. Through these institutionalised and effective channels, they will be able to make positive contributions to the government's policies and to our governance.
Secondly, I would like to say a few words on the legislation regarding Article 23 of the Basic Law. I consider, and I've said this many times, that the Government has a duty to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law. But everybody can see that although the consultative and legislative process has been under way for nearly a year, many of our citizens still do not understand the contents. Thus, the Government has decided it is necessary to put forward the Bill to the whole community for consultation again. Based on the foundation of the legislative work done already, this consultation exercise will be even more extensive than the previous one. The Government will compile a full text of the Bill incorporating all the amendments proposed by the Government and discuss it with Legislative Council Members at the Bills Committee. Meanwhile, we shall reopen our dialogue with the public and concerned organisations to listen to their views. Let me emphasise that the purpose of this round of consultation is to win the maximum understanding and support of the community as a whole for this legislation. The schedule of the entire legislative process as we move forward will depend very much on how the consultation goes.
Thirdly, the Government is taking advantage of the new opportunities brought about by CEPA and our enhanced co-operation with Guangdong Province, in formulating short and medium-term policy initiatives with a view to helping our economic restructuring. When I pay my duty visit to Beijing on Saturday, I will make a further request to the Central Government to speed up the schedule for the implementation of various arrangements under CEPA. I also hope to make more progress in expanding the scope of CEPA. At present our economy is recovering nicely from the SARS outbreak. I believe the momentum of economic recovery should be sustainable. We must do everything to keep the momentum going. We must also recognise the importance of the property market to economic revival. Hence, one of our paramount tasks is to continue to adopt whatever positive measures there are to help the property market.
Fourthly, although today I cannot address all the concerns and aspirations of the public, I will continue to do so in the days and weeks to come. Through concrete measures, we will formulate policies from the standpoint of the people. Our response to the aspirations of the public will honour our promise to reflect properly the concerns and expectations of our people. It will also be conducive to safeguarding a stable and long-lasting relationship between Hong Kong and the Mainland within the framework of "One Country, Two Systems". Indeed, the march on July 1 was a timely reminder for me. No matter how good my officials and I believe a certain policy is, we should not, and cannot, ask the public to accept it as a matter of course. The public has reminded me that I should adopt a modest, open and sincere attitude in order to win their trust and support.
Finally, I would like to talk about my duty visit to Beijing. I had already decided on making such visit at the start of July. Not only do I need to respond to the aspirations of the people on July 1, I also have a duty to make a report to the Central Government, hence, the plan to make the visit this Saturday. I also need time to reflect in detail on the aspirations of the citizens and the preparation for the responses. You can see from my statement today, our handling of Article 23, personnel arrangements and the Beijing duty visit that we have responded to the people's aspirations in a positive way and in an orderly way.
Now, I would be happy to answer a few questions.
Reporter: Have any other Principal Officials offered their resignations to you? And do you accept, given your Government's unpopularity that it's going to be difficult to find people to replace the two who have already resigned?
Chief Executive: Well to the first question: No. There isn't. And to the second question: Given today's environment, it is not easy. It was not easy before, for many, many reasons. But I will tell you this: I have people's names in mind. I know in Hong Kong there are people who are willing to make sacrifices for the greater good of Hong Kong.
Reporter: What timescale do you envisage for filling these posts?
Chief Executive: We'll do it as quickly as possible.
Reporter: Why not bring forward the consultation on constitutional reforms before 2004/2005, particularly given that you say you maybe did not give a long enough consultation on Article 23? And within that, would you talk a little bit about whether you see a role for universal suffrage for the CE position itself?
Chief Executive: I've been watching very carefully and hear the voices of the people on this subject and I want to assure you there will be plenty of time for us to adequately consult the public at large. The Government has this responsibility to consult the people at large and we will organise these things in due course, making sure there's plenty of time for all the citizens to participate, to do a good consultation exercise.
Reporter: Dr Victor Fung has been mentioned before as a possible contender for a position in your Cabinet. Can you say if you are considering asking him to join your Government at the moment?
Chief Executive: I will not make any comment about individuals. I am sorry.
Reporter: Mr Tung, on the question of consultation on Article 23. You say you're going to be doing it on the basis of what's already in the legislation plus your three proposed amendments. But that is likely not to satisfy those people who have said why not include all of these suggested amendments put forward by other people. So why not accept those other amendments in your paper, and will you do it as a white paper or is it going to be a consultation document the way we saw the last time?
Chief Executive: You are getting very technical and I will let my specialists answer these questions. Except I just want to emphasise to you: the spirit of the consultation is going to be as wide as possible and we want to get the maximum support from the whole community to move ahead.
Reporter: But how can you get the maximum support, sir, if you start off by saying that it's clear that the people misunderstand?
Chief Executive: I will let my specialists answer that question.
Reporter: I just want to know if you're going to bring up the issue of directly electing a chief executive to Beijing.
Chief Executive: As I said to someone just now, the constitutional development issue would undergo a consultation in the future and it's a process here in Hong Kong that needs to be gone through. We will make sure there is plenty of time for everybody to participate in this process and that will be the first, most important step.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion)
Thursday, July 17, 2003