CS'remarks on adjustments to package of proposals in Fifth Report

Following is the translation of the remarks given by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Rafael Hui, on the Government's adjustments to the package of proposals in the Fifth Report of the Constitutional Development Task Force at a media session held at the ground floor lobby of West Wing, Central Government Offices today (December 19):

Chief Secretary: The Executive Council held a special meeting this morning to consider how the proposed methods for electing the Chief Executive in 2007 and for forming the Legislative Council in 2008 should be adjusted in order to address the concerns of certain members of the community.  The meeting endorsed some adjustments to the proposals.  

     Before I explain the adjustments endorsed by the Executive Council, I would like to first stress that the proposals for the 2007/08 electoral methods put forward in the Fifth Report are the outcome of several rounds of public consultation conducted in the past 18 months or so. The proposals have struck the right balance among the various views of different sectors of the community.  The main thrust of the proposals is the enhanced level of participation of District Council members in the Election Committee and the LegCo. As all of us would agree, DC members have a broad electorate base and can greatly enhance the "democratic representation" in the two electoral methods.

     In fact, since the publication of the proposals on October 19, the opinion polls conducted by different organisations invariably, clearly showed that those in support of the proposals are in the majority.  We are also aware that many people would like to see, at an early date, a timetable for attaining universal suffrage.  That said, the majority of our people consider that the proposals on the table now should not be voted down simply, and solely, because no timetable for attaining universal suffrage has been put forward.  The wish of our people is clear.  They do not want to maintain the status quo.  They want progress in our constitutional development.

     We notice that one of the focus areas of political parties and members of the community is the participation of DC members in the two electoral methods.  While they agree that the participation of DC members would enlarge the electorate base and "democratic element" of the two election methods, some consider that the retention of appointed DC seats is not totally reasonable.  We have seriously studied these opinions and are prepared to respond to them.

     In studying this matter, we have conducted our analysis at two levels.  First, under existing laws, all DC members have the same status, rights and responsibilities, be they elected or appointed.  Removing the rights of appointed DC members to participate in the election of the Chief Executive and the LegCo is not only unfair to them, but also inconsistent with the principle of equal rights and obligations of all DC members.

     Second, appointed DC members, with their professional expertise, experience and dedication, have made invaluable contributions to enhancing the management and service level in districts.  A drastic reduction in the number, or even elimination, of appointed seats will have an impact on the quality of Government services delivered at the district level.   Moreover, this will not be acceptable to all sectors of the community.

     As you can see now, it is not an easy task to balance the different interests.  Having regard to the considerations that I have just mentioned, the Government is prepared to make some adjustments to the proposals, as follows -

(a)  the number of appointed DC seats will be reduced by one-third from the existing 102 to 68 when the new term of DC commences on January 1, 2008; and

(b)  in the light of the actual situation then (mainly the community reaction and operation of DCs after reduction of the number of appointed DC seats), we will decide before end 2011 whether to reduce the number of appointed seats to zero in January, 2012, or to 34 in January in 2012 and then to zero in January, 2016.

     These adjustments form part of the Government's overall package for the 2007/08 electoral arrangements.  They will not necessitate any amendments to the two motions that the Government will move at the LegCo meeting on December 21 to amend Annexes I and II of the Basic Law.  If the two motions are passed by the LegCo, we will implement the changes to appointed DC seats through amendments to local legislation.  If the two motions are voted down, we will not proceed with the changes to the appointed DC seats.  However, the community can continue to discuss this subject, for example, in the context of the review of DC which in any case will start in the first quarter of 2006.

     Before I close, I would like to stress that these adjustments are not only consistent with our drive for democratic development, but also in accordance with the principles of "in the light of the actual situation", "gradual and orderly progress" and "having regard to the interests of different strata of the community".  These adjustments are the most that the Government can do.

     Public opinion is very clear.  Our people want the proposals to be passed by the Legco.  I sincerely hope that Legco members will respond to the wish of our people and vote for the two motions, so that our constitutional development can move forward.  Our people want to take this important step forward in our journey to universal suffrage.  Whether we can make progress hinges on the votes cast by our Legco members.  I hope they will, in the overall interests of Hong Kong and in accordance public opinion, vote for the two motions, so that we can move forward.  Maintaining the status quo is certainly not what our people would want to see.

Ends/Monday, December 19, 2005
Issued at HKT 13:30