‘HK political reform talks underway’
Secretary Tam says Ce-hosted dinner was like ‘consultation without papers’
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.