Amendments are possible in 2007 'if there is a need'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 March, 2004, 12:00am

But the taskforce does not elaborate on this definition

After two months of public consultation, involving 82 groups and 600 submissions, the government political taskforce has concluded that changes are possible to the selection method for the next chief executive and the formation of the Legislative Council after 2007.

'Our conclusion is that, if there is a need, amendments to the method of selecting the third-term chief executive in 2007 may be considered,' the report said.

But it did not specify the definition of 'if there is a need'.

The taskforce, set up in January, consulted the public on five issues of the legislative process relating to constitutional development. They were: what legislative process should be used for amending the methods of selecting the chief executive and Legco; whether there is a need to invoke Article 159 of the Basic Law; initiation of amendments; whether the method for forming the third-term Legco may apply to the fourth and subsequent terms; and how the phrase 'subsequent to the year 2007' should be understood.

Taskforce chief Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said although the public was split over whether the phrase 'subsequent to 2007' in Annex I of the Basic Law actually included the year 2007, the taskforce was of the view that it did.

As to the crucial question of who will initiate the amendments, the report says if it is decided that there is a need to amend the selection methods, the proposed changes 'should only be introduced to Legco by the SAR government'.

This will be in line with Article 74 which states that legislative councillors cannot introduce bills that relate to the political structure of Hong Kong.

The proposal will need to be endorsed by a two-thirds majority in Legco and must have the consent of the chief executive, and be reported to the National People's Congress Standing Committee for approval or record.

On completion of these procedures, local legislation could then be made.

The taskforce was of the view that there was no need to evoke the formal and more complicated mechanism of amending the Basic Law under Article 159.

Addressing concerns that there may be a legal vacuum if a consensus on whether to amend the method for forming the legislature after 2007 cannot be reached, the taskforce said: 'The method for forming the third-term Legislative Council should apply to the formation of the fourth and subsequent terms of Legco'.

The report added that the Legislative Council Ordinance does not confine the electoral provisions for the elections in September this year to the third-term Legco only.