‘HK po­lit­i­cal re­form talks un­der­way’

Sec­re­tary Tam says Ce-hosted din­ner was like ‘con­sul­ta­tion with­out pa­pers’

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By KAHON CHAN in Hong Kong kahon@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

A con­sul­ta­tion for the con­sti­tu­tional re­form “with­out the con­sul­ta­tion pa­per” is al­ready un­der­way, the con­sti­tu­tional af­fairs sec­re­tary said on Thurs­day, ap­par­ently in re­sponse to mount­ing pres­sure on the govern­ment to start re­form dis­cus­sions as soon as pos­si­ble.

Sec­re­tary for Con­sti­tu­tional and Main­land Af­fairs Ray­mond Tam Chi-yuen was speak­ing to the press af­ter a three-hour din­ner hosted by Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Le­ung Chun-ying at Govern­ment House on Thurs­day evening. Twenty-six guests, mostly aca­demics, were in­vited to the talks fo­cus­ing on a clear theme — con­sti­tu­tional re­form.

Tam said the ad­min­is­tra­tion has started this “pa­per­less” process so that a com­pre­hen­sive pic­ture of all avail­able op­tions could be in­cluded in fu­ture for­mal con­sul­ta­tions.

As promised by the National Peo­ple’s Congress Stand­ing Com­mit­tee, the city is poised to elect its Chief Ex­ec­u­tive in 2017 by univer­sal suf­frage. Calls for a for­mal pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion have mounted since the first year of Le­ung’s ten­ure.

Tam re­it­er­ated no de­ci­sion has been made on when to of­fi­cially com­mence the five steps to pass the elec­toral pack­age, but said the ad­min­is­tra­tion has al­ready been lis­ten­ing to views on con­sti­tu­tional re­form and the din­ner was part of that ex­er­cise.

“This stage ... could be de­scribed as a con­sul­ta­tion with­out the con­sul­ta­tion pa­pers,” said Tam. “We col­lect the pro­pos­als, lis­ten to con­crete views, and trig­ger dis­cus­sions in the com­mu­nity. In this sense, we have al­ready started.”

Be­fore tak­ing the process to a broader au­di­ence, Tam said, it was nec­es­sary to “blend” the pre­vail­ing pro­pos­als and stand­points into the for­mal con­sul­ta­tion pa­pers to al­low the pub­lic “a more com­pre­hen­sive pic­ture”.

Fur­ther­more, Tam said pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion could be­gin once con­di­tions are ripe, and in par­tic­u­lar, cited a din­ner guest’s sug­ges­tion to build an ex­change plat­form like the one cre­ated for the Ba­sic Law in the late 1980s.

Tam also said aca­demics and politi­cians at the din­ner agreed it was a pri­or­ity to draw up a pro­posal that is both ac­cept­able to the cen­tral govern­ment and at least some mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion camp, which con­trols more than one-third of the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil.

Hosts and guests of the din­ner have all agreed not to dis­cuss oth­ers’ re­marks to the press. Among the guests there were Lau Siu-kai, for­mer head of the govern­ment’s cen­tral pol­icy unit, and Priscilla Lau Puik­ing, a deputy to the National Peo­ple’s Congress.

There were also three mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion par­ties: For­mer leg­is­la­tor Che­ung Man-kwong, a cen­tral com­mit­tee mem­ber of the Demo­cratic Party, so­cial work scholar Law Chi-kwong, a mem­ber of the Demo­cratic Party, and As­so­ciate Vice-Pres­i­dent of Ling­nan Univer­sity Stephen Chan Ching-Kiu, who is also vice chair­man of the Civic Party.

Che­ung pro­posed cre­at­ing a semi-of­fi­cial or­ga­ni­za­tion to col­lect views for the govern­ment and to pave the way for con­sen­sus on the re­form pack­age.

Cur­rent af­fairs com­men­ta­tor Lau Nai-ke­ung, also present, de­scribed the at­mos­phere as ra­tio­nal, friendly and an­i­mated. He also noted that as there was no ac­tive politi­cian in the room, no one was rush­ing to speak to the press post-din­ner to take ad­van­tage of the me­dia spot­light.

While ev­ery­one ap­peared open for dia­logue, Lau noted “peo­ple have their own po­si­tions, thoughts, per­spec­tives and in­ter­ests.” He also said the CE split his time be­tween the two ta­bles.

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