A minister says HK's road to universal suffrage should not drag on indefinitely A senior British minister has called for early progress to be made to achieve the goal of full democracy in Hong Kong. The move towards electing the chief executive and the legislature by universal suffrage should not be a 'never-ending process', said Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell. In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Mr Rammell, who oversees Britain's policy towards its former colony, said the need to maintain stability in Hong Kong should not mean that the political system should remain unchanged. 'Our hope is that Hong Kong would make early progress towards what is within the ultimate aim of the Basic Law to elect the chief executive and the Legislative Council by universal suffrage ... in step with the wishes of the local community. 'Hong Kong does still matter to the UK and stability is essential for a prosperous future in Hong Kong. But that doesn't mean [there should be] no change,' Mr Rammell said. He was present at the Tuesday meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, who is on an official visit to Britain. They discussed constitutional reform among other political and economic issues. Mr Rammell said both he and Mr Blair welcomed the Hong Kong government's promise to launch a public consultation on constitutional reform early next year. 'I think it is important for Hong Kong people to have an opportunity to express their views,' he said. Under the Basic Law, the present electoral arrangement of selecting the chief executive by an 800-strong Election Committee and half of the 60-seat legislature by direct elections could be changed after 2007. Mr Rammell, like Mr Blair on Tuesday, would not specify the time the British government considered appropriate for universal suffrage to be introduced, but said the issue should not drag on indefinitely. 'We certainly are not talking about a never-ending process,' he said. Mr Rammell said it was premature to pass judgment on the consultation exercise before it began. He was replying to concerns voiced by pro-democracy politicians in Hong Kong that the process could turn out to be a repeat of the consultation of the shelved national security legislation, where critics accused the government of manipulating the findings. He added that the fact people were free to demonstrate on July 1 showed the 'one country, two systems' policy was working well.