Following is the transcript (English portion) of the press conference given today (November 18) by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Henry Tang, at the Central Government Offices New Annexe on Consultation Document on the Methods for Selecting the Chief Executive and for Forming the Legislative Council in 2012:
Reporter: Mr Tang, you and even the Chief Executive have repeatedly stressed that there will be new democratic elements in this reform package. But the Election Committee that you are proposing would actually extend only to 1,200 instead of 1,600 that you proposed in 2005. How exactly is that progress? And for the Legislative Council you have five elected seats in functional constituencies by elected District Councillors. Isn¦t that still indirect election and not direct election?
Chief Secretary for Administration:Let me start off by saying that the National People¦s Congress Standing Committee made a decision in December 2007, and in that decision it decided very clearly that in 2012,first, there would be no universal suffrage, and secondly, the ratio between geographic constituency and functional constituency would remain at 50-50. So unless we do not increase any Legislative Council seats, otherwise if we were going to increase any, then we would have to increase on equal proportions. This is what we are proposing for consideration and bearing in mind that in this consultation we are giving out some directions for consideration and we are not necessarily confined to those because we do want to hear public¦s views. In that consideration we have to consider how we embark on this evolutionary process towards universal suffrage in 2017 and 2020. So we felt and we assessed that the proposals, the direction we are putting forward for consideration, are embarking on this journey. This evolutionary path towards the goal of universal suffrage because it has a very broad electoral base. District Council members have a 3.35 million electoral base, and that¦s the broadest base that we have. As far as the Election Committee is concerned, it is partly based on decision by NPCSC in December (2007) that nominating committee to be formed in 2017 has to make reference to the Election Committee in 2012. Therefore, that¦s one of the considerations. We just want to lay the foundations so that it will make the transition, we hope, smoother. The second aspect is, we want to fulfil the requirements and one of the factors for consideration is equal participation.Therefore we propose the increase of 100 in each of the four categories.
The third reason, of course there¦s a reduction because we have taken away the voting rights of the appointed members, which is about 100. So naturally it will diminish by 100. Overall, we feel that there is a lot more democratic elements and we feel we have made a significant stride toward universal suffrage based on the decision by the NPCSC because the two main factors that those who voted against our proposals in 2005 were: one, there was no timetable and now there is; and secondly, they objected against the proposal that in 2005 we allowed appointed members to vote, and we have taken away that too. In our assessment we feel that this proposal actually has the most democratic elements that we have injected within the framework of the NPCSC¦s decision in 2007; and secondly, with these democratic elements we are embarking on this evolutionary transition path towards universal suffrage.
Reporter: Given that you say you have introduced more democratic elements in this proposal compared to than the last one, how do you think the proposal will be received by the public again comparing it to the last time you produced it in 2005. Also, recent polls have shown a lower popularity for both the Chief Executive and the Government, will it be difficult for the government to rally support from the public?
Chief Secretary for Administration: We have put forward a number of directional foods for thought because we feel that since we have been discussing about electoral arrangements for quite a long time, and many members in the community who are interested in this subject and who wish to contribute and participate in it are actually quite well versed in the subject already, so we can become more focused in our discussion. That¦s why we have put forward in this consultation some directions and some proposals for discussion. It doesn¦t mean we would not listen to other views as well. We are very open-minded in terms of the public¦s views.
I cannot begin to guess how the public will react to these proposals. I hope that the public will welcome or will agree with me that the additional democratic elements and the progress that we have made towards universal suffrage are actually a very good proposal to put us on the path towards the goal of universal suffrage.
Regarding the Government¦s popularity, I admit and accept that the Government¦s popularity today is not as high as we were in 2005 and it may negatively impact on the proposals we have put forward. That¦s why I would not make any guess on how well it will be received, but I think people will objectively assess the elements in this proposal compared with what we put forward in 2005, and they will see that substantial progress have been made. We have timetable for universal suffrage decided by the National People¦s Congress Standing Committee; and secondly, we have taken away the second (two) most important objections by some of those who voted against our proposal in 2005, which is the power to vote and to be elected from the appointed members in the District Councils.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)