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HK rebuffs US remarks on pace of democracy
(China Daily HK Edition)
Updated: 2004-09-25 09:22

Hong Kong will advance constitutional development according to the Basic Law and the decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC), which foreign countries should respect.

This message was delivered yesterday by a government spokesman in response to a US congressional hearing on Thursday, when a US official commented on the recent Legislative Council election and called for a quicker pace of democratization in Hong Kong.

"The Basic Law provides that the elections of the chief executive (CE) and all the members of the Legislative Council (LegCo) by universal suffrage is the ultimate aim, and this will be achieved by gradual and orderly progress and in the light of the actual situation of Hong Kong.

"Although under the NPCSC decision, universal suffrage will not be introduced in 2007 and 2008 for the elections of the CE and of the LegCo, there is scope to make further improvements to our electoral system and to make progress towards the ultimate aim of universal suffrage," the spokesman said.

"The community will continue to play an important role in Hong Kong's constitutional development. The Constitutional Development Task Force chaired by the chief secretary for administration will endeavour to find common ground and build consensus as we take forward our constitutional development process," he said.

The spokesman called upon foreign governments and legislatures to continue to respect the principle that Hong Kong's electoral arrangements should be made in accordance with the Basic Law.

The LegCo election on September 12 was an important milestone in Hong Kong's constitutional development, he stressed.

He listed out facts and figures that "vividly demonstrate public support of the electoral system":

For the first time, half of the LegCo members have been returned by direct election.

The number of candidates (159), the voter turnout in terms of number (over 1.7 million) and percentage (55.6 per cent for geographical constituencies and 70.14 per cent for functional constituencies) are all historic highs.

"The election has been conducted in an open, fair and honest manner. Although there have been some administrative hiccups in the practical arrangements for the election, they have in no way compromised the integrity of the election."

The Electoral Affairs Commission will review the arrangements and submit a report to the chief executive; and all election-related complaints will also be thoroughly investigated by the commission and other relevant authorities, the government spokesman promised.

In the US congressional hearing, Randall Schriver, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, urged China to swiftly establish "genuine representative government in Hong Kong in line with the wishes of the majority of the people in the territory".

Citing the record voter turnout rate, Schriver said Hong Kong people had sent a "clear message to the governments in Hong Kong and Beijing that they want - and value - democracy".

Schriver voiced the hope that China would continue to expand the number of directly-elected seats in Hong Kong in line with the Basic Law so as to realize "a Hong Kong governed by Hong Kong people".

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