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Transcript of remarks at press conference

     The Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung; the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam; the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok; the Commissioner of Police, Mr Tsang Wai-hung; the Under Secretary for Security, Mr John Lee; and the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations), Mr Wong Chi-hung, today (September 28) held a press conference at the Auditorium, Central Government Offices, Tamar. Following is the transcript of remarks of the question-and-answer session at the press conference:

Reporter: Mr Leung, you said that all along you've been listening attentively and you appealed to make for people to have rational discussion. Would that include you having a rational discussion with the students and meeting them in the future? And the Commissioner of Police, I was wondering if you could explain the rationale for allowing OC foam or pepper spray to be used on unarmed protesters?

Chief Executive: We try to listen to all sectors of the community and you can see that in the past few months, both myself and members of the three-person group responsible for constitutional development in Government have been using various means and forms to meet with different parts of the community. And I personally have done a few of those as well. And in so far as the students are concerned, I have had meetings with students from different parts of Hong Kong. As I said in my answer to the previous Chinese question, it is important that we engage all parts of the community including young students in a rational manner. And in so far as consultations and the question of constitutional development is concerned, it is also important to bear in mind that we have to operate within the framework of the stipulations of the Basic Law and the National People's Congress Standing Committee's decisions because these are the legal and constitutional frameworks for Hong Kong's constitutional developments to go forward in.

Commissioner of Police: Now, about the use of force. Police have very strict guidelines on the use of force, and we'll only use force when it's necessary and ensure that only the minimum necessary force is used. Members of public would no doubt be able to see from the footage of the news report, for instance, of the act of those demonstrators or protesters who charged against the Central Government Offices as well as the LegCo building, resulting in injuries caused to both security guards, police officers and the demonstrators themselves. Police have a duty to protect members of public, and will take resolute action as necessary to ensure that this is done.

Reporter: Well, Mr Leung, I would like to ask, you made it clear you won't be meeting students. What about the "Occupy Central" organisers? Would you meet them? And would you consider rewriting the reform proposal? If not rewriting, maybe a supplement of the reform proposal? And for Mr Tsang, I would like to ask how do you define violence by the students? They're not armed, they're not throwing stones towards the Police, so how do you define that? And how do you respond to people saying that, well, there's overuse or misuse of power from the Police? Thank you.

Chief Executive: Let me start by reiterating a very key provision in the Basic Law, which is not often and not entirely understood. For Hong Kong to adopt universal suffrage as a means to elect the Chief Executive, we need two-thirds majority in the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, the consent of the Chief Executive, and, importantly, the approval of the National People's Congress Standing Committee. Now let me say this again because, more than once, influential and otherwise knowledgeable political figures in Hong Kong have, for reasons unknown to me, misconstrued this provision. They have said publicly that it's a matter for reporting to the National People's Congress Standing Committee, and the NPCSC, the National People's Congress Standing Committee, is now moving the goalpost by requiring approval. Not true. It is there in black and white. It is paragraph seven of Annex I to the Basic Law. We do need the approval of the NPCSC. The NPCSC, having listened to the views in Hong Kong, both indirectly and directly, both in Hong Kong and on the Mainland, have made their decision on the 31st of August. If Hong Kong wants to move forward and have universal suffrage, and this could be as early as 2017, we have to operate on the basis of the NPCSC's decision, because it is a requirement in the Basic Law if we want to do it. If we want to operate outside of the Basic Law, then we shan't have universal suffrage in 2017. So it is important for us to understand that now that the NPCSC has made its decision, I myself and my colleagues in Government are very happy to engage, I am sure we will as soon as the second round of consultation starts, engage all sectors of Hong Kong community to discuss as to how we could go forward. Now, it is not very constructive to say that the starting point of any engagement is to set aside the National People's Congress Standing Committee's decision, because it is not up to us to set aside the NPCSC's decision. So I think it is a very important starting point.

Commissioner of Police: Other than considering the fact that the protesters who charged against the Central Government Offices and the LegCo buildings are by and large unarmed, I believe it is also important to consider the fact that many others were injured by their act as a result, including over 10 security guards working for the Central Government Offices and a number of police officers as well as a number of protesters themselves. I believe to try to tie acts of violence to whether or not one is armed is a rather unwise proposition.

Reporter: So my first question is, there are a lot of people saying by using pepper spray towards students, the Government is encouraging more and more citizens to join the protest. What's your view on this? And my second question is related to Professor Wang Zhenmin. He is a Chinese professor and he is the former Basic Law Committee member. He said that by not granting Hong Kong full democracy, it is to safeguard Hong Kong's tycoons' interests. Do you agree with his opinion? If you agree, can you tell me in what areas have Hong Kong's property tycoons and business cartels benefited the society as a whole? And my third question is, the Government has been saying that the NPC's decision cannot be retracted. What's the reason behind this and have you been telling the NPC about many Hong Kong people's demand for full democracy? If you haven't, why not? And have you told the NPC or Beijing that by not giving Hong Kong people what they want, it will only turn the Hong Kong society more unstable? Thank you.

Chief Executive: You asked a long series of very complex questions. Which one will you like me to start with? Full democracy? Right.

     Now, whether it is the question of relationship between Hong Kong and Central Authorities or the question of the electoral arrangements within Hong Kong, again, and I do have to underline this, we have to operate within the framework of the Basic Law. The Basic Law is both a national law and a Hong Kong law, and it was promulgated after five years of consultation between 1985 and 1990. It was promulgated in 1990. It is a very important cornerstone for Hong Kong's stability and prosperity. It also enshrines all the major principles of "One Country, Two Systems", "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong" with a high degree of autonomy. You used the word "full democracy". The term is obviously subject to different interpretations. But let me just highlight one point for you in the context of your question. And this is the fact that Hong Kong is a democracy, Hong Kong is a democracy within the concept of "One Country" and "Two Systems". So, in that sense, Hong Kong is not a self-contained democracy, because whatever method we use to elect or select the Chief Executive, at the end of the day, the elected candidate requires the appointment of the Central Government. Now, that additional step in electing or selecting a Chief Executive is not common in other jurisdictions. So, one can't make a direct comparison between what we are achieving to what exists in other jurisdictions, and I think it is important to bear that in mind.

     You asked the question of the interests of the various sectors in Hong Kong. And again, it is an important concept in the design of the political structure in Hong Kong, which is again in the Basic Law, that we give balanced participation to all sectors in Hong Kong. So while different people may have different views as to what is balanced participation, the design of the political structure in the Basic Law differentiates itself from other designs of political structure in other jurisdictions in that it's not just the question of counting the number of votes or voters, and it is in the Basic Law: "ŰѻP".

     In so far as the NPCSC's decision is concerned, to move forward, to move forward we have to do it on the basis of the NPCSC decision. We also have to bear in mind the fact that even if we decided to start the entire process again, would we have enough time to implement universal suffrage in 2017? I think that's a valid question because at the end of the framework decision within Hong Kong and the passage of a motion by two-thirds' super-majority of Legislative Council, we need to enact or amend legislations, and that's time-consuming too. And we do have a date in mind, and this date on the calendar is 2017, and not 2018 or 2019. And I think it is important for me to again highlight this.

     If you look at the stipulations of the NPCSC decision that came out on the 31st of August, and compare these to what we now have, essentially a 1,200 election member electoral college election, I think any fair-minded person will be able to come to the conclusion that the proposed method of electing Chief Executive by universal suffrage in 2017 is more democratic. It may not be ideal compared to the individual's own proposition or design, but it is better, and a lot better, than what we now have. So, it would be a pity if Hong Kong as a whole or more than one-third of the members of the Legislative Council decide to stand still. And my own position, which I shared with members of the community, is that we should move forward.

     It is also important to note that nothing in the Basic Law suggests that this is the only and the last chance that we change the method of election. I think we should take this step forward, and then after 2017, if Hong Kong people so agree and if we believe that there is an improvement to be made to the system, then we still could. There's nothing in the Basic Law to stop us from doing it.

Reporter: So have you called Beijing ...? And do you agree with Professor Wang's opinions that Beijing must safeguard Hong Kong tycoons' interests by not granting Hong Kong unchecked democracy?

Chief Executive: I'm not quite sure whether you just gave me an entirely accurate quote of what he said, but let me just share with you my own position. If you look at the housing and land policy of this Government, which came into office two years ago, you'll agree that we have the health of the property market in mind and we have the need of the people in mind. If you look at the supply policies of the Government, if you look at demand management policies of the Government, you know in whose interest we work.

Reporter: So, do you think that by using pepper spray on Hong Kong students, the Government is encouraging more and more people to join the protest?

Chief Executive: The Police in Hong Kong ... Hong Kong is a very open society, which means that we do receive news from other parts of the world as well. Anyone who makes a comparison between the work of the Police Force in Hong Kong, which is one of the best in the world, to those used by other police forces in other parts of the world I think will come to a conclusion that, on the question of crowd control and crowd management, the Hong Kong Police Force exercise a very, very high degree of constraint. And I and my Government have full confidence in the professionalism of our elite Police Force.

Reporter: How do you draw the line of whether to use tear gas and water cannon?

Commissioner of Police: Well, the Police have very clear guidelines on the use of force, and will make sure that we will only use force when it's necessary, and only the minimum necessary force is used. Thank you.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Sunday, September 28, 2014
Issued at HKT 21:32


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