Lau Kong-wah, constitutional affairs undersecretary, mum on Article 23

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 December, 2012, 3:51am

The newly appointed undersecretary for constitutional affairs had little to say about enacting national security legislation on his first day of office yesterday.

Lau Kong-wah, a long-serving Beijing-loyalist lawmaker who was defeated in September's Legislative Council election, would only say he would communicate with all politicians in his new role.

But when pressed on his view about passing the national security legislation required under Article 23 of the Basic Law, a proposal he had backed and which prompted a 500,000-strong protest march in 2003, Lau said: "I think I'm not in an appropriate position to comment on this; after all, it's my first day at work."

Lau's new role is expected to be thorny, as his bureau will be handling some of the more technical questions relating to reforms introducing universal suffrage for the chief executive election, possibly in 2017, and legislative council elections, tentatively slated for 2020. The dates are the earliest the National People's Congress has said are acceptable to it.

"I wouldn't underestimate any of the difficulties and challenges," Lau said. "I very much hope to have close communication with all parties in Legco."

Lau was until recently a vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.

Pan-democrats could not hide their jubilation at the double defeat Lau suffered - not only did he lose his bid for one of the five new "super seats" in Legco, but his seat on the Executive Council too.

In response to criticisms the government hired an election loser, Lau said: "My appointment followed discussion between the bureau secretary and myself. In future, I hope to perform the duties well."

On Lau's appointment, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said: "This is part of our long-standing policy of choosing the best person for the job."

Leung declined to explain why Lau was considered the best person.