Changing reforms 'not Legco's role'

CO-OPERATIVE Resources Centre legislator Mrs Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee said yesterday it was a violation of the executive-led Government's tradition if the administration relied on the Legislature Council to significantly amend the Governor's political reform package.

She said the best scenario would be for the British and Chinese governments to arrive at a compromised model before the whole legislative blueprint was tabled in Legco by the end of the month.

Her comments were made amid reports that the Government was willing to amend or even withdraw Mr Patten's package and postpone the tabling of the bill if China wished to initiate negotiations on the matter.

Officials refused to comment on the report and the Deputy to the Governor, Sir David Ford, only reiterated that the plan to gazette the Governor's proposals on election arrangements before the end of the month remained on course.

Although the Government had earlier planned to gazette the bill today, last-minute technical problems resulted in a delay of the publication and it is expected to be ready for next week's Gazette.

It is understood the Government has decided to send a copy of the bill to the Chinese side before its formal publication. Britain is also hoping for some response from Beijing before tabling the bill.

The British ambassador to China, Sir Robin McLaren, is understood to be in contact with the State Council's Hongkong and Macau Affairs Office, hoping that Beijing officials can be persuaded to return to the negotiating table.

British officials maintain that as long as there is no pre-condition that Mr Patten must withdraw his proposals before the two sides can resume talks, the British side is willing to discuss the constitutional reform plan anywhere and anytime.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Wu Jianmin, commenting on the Executive Council's approval of the Governor's political package, reiterated that the Governor would have to withdraw his reform package and show his sincerity by returning to the path laid down by the Joint Declaration.

The Chinese side would under no circumstances accept any proposal not in agreement with the Basic Law, he said.

Mrs Chow criticised the Government for leaving legislators with massive amendment work.

''The Government knows very well there is opposition to the package. If it still goes ahead with it without any amendment, it leaves the amendment work to the Legislative Council,'' the former Executive Councillor said.

''But I don't think we have the professional expertise to undertake the amendment work.

''The Hongkong Government is executive-led. In the past, most decisions were made by the administration after its detailed and professional analysis.

''I think the present move has diverged from the executive-led Government's tradition.'' The CRC core member said she did not believe such diplomatic talks would lead to a decision that betrayed the interests of Hongkong people, as past experience had shown there were adequate channels for the two sides to collect public opinion in the territory.

Mrs Chow said the CRC would amend three items of the package if it came to the Legislative Council in its original form.

The centre urged that the composition of the 1995 Election Committee should follow the formula mentioned in the Basic Law.

It suggested the new functional constituency seats should follow the same format as adopted by the present 21 functional constituency seats.

It also asked for a delay of the abolition of the appointed seats in district boards and the two municipal councils.