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Tsang: Reforms must benefit whole nation
By Xiao Guo (China Daily HK Edition)
Updated: 2004-04-01 16:15

Constitutional development in Hong Kong should proceed in accordance with the best and collective interests of Hong Kong and the motherland, said Chief Secretary Donald Tsang.

Neither the central government, nor the chief executive nor the Legislative Council (LegCo) can force its way to initiate the mechanism to amend the election system, the result of which would only be "irresponsible, depressing and disappointing", he said.

Speaking at a special LegCo meeting yesterday, the chief secretary briefed legislators on the meeting on Tuesday between the Constitutional Development Task Force and representatives of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) .

Tsang, who heads the task force, tackled remarks by "pro-democracy" legislators that the LegCo had lost its initiative to kickstart the mechanism. Tsang reiterated that any changes to the election system should win consensus among the three parties before the SAR government initiated political reform.

"It's not the time to argue who should be responsible to initiate the mechanism," said Tsang.

Rather, it is realistic and rational to take into account the bottom-line of each side. One must gain consensus from all three sides and move forward to the ultimate goal of universal suffrage, he added.

"We must stand by the collective interests of Hong Kong and the nation," Tsang stressed.

Some legislators - including Martin Lee, Lee Cheuk-yan and Yeung Sum - reacted with anger at the meeting. They said that the SAR government failed to safeguard the high degree of autonomy because the mechanism could not be initiated "without the blessing of Beijing".

"High degree of autonomy as well as Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong is the motto of my colleagues' and mine. We bear it in mind every day and even every breath," Tsang said.

He urged the legislators not to exaggerate the issues easily and to face the political reality.

Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung pointed out that the HKSAR is one part of China and the central government is entitled and responsible to get involved in Hong Kong's political reform.

The amendment to the election system for the selection of chief executive and the formation of the LegCo cannot be done or decided simply by the SAR government, she said.

The NPC Standing Committee's plan to interpret the annexes of The Basic Law was a good thing for Hong Kong as it could clarify the grey areas as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the chief secretary revealed that the task force was working on the second report on the issues of principles related to constitutional development. The report is expected to be completed in mid-April.

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