Chief Secretary concludes Beijing visit
The Task Force on Constitutional Development headed by the Chief Secretary, Mr Donald Tsang, concluded their Beijing visit today (February 10). Before leaving Beijing, the Chief Secretary said that following these exchanges with the relevant departments of the Central Authorities, the task force had initially identified the concerns of the Central Authorities on issues of
principles and legislative process relating to development within the political structure as enshrined in the Basic Law, and would further promote discussion about these issues in the Hong Kong community.
Mr Tsang said, "During the meeting with the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO), I have forwarded to them the submissions that the task force received from 10 organisations and individuals, and have informed them that most of these organisations and individuals have aspirations on constitutional development, and hope that the existing structure could evolve.
"I have also mentioned to Mr Xu that the 10 organisations and individuals whom the task force have met all accept that the Central Authorities have the constitutional powers to oversee the constitutional development in Hong Kong. They also agree that the development of Hong Kong's political structure should be in accordance with 'One Country, Two Systems' and the Basic
Law," he said.
The Chief Secretary said that from the meetings with the HKMAO and the Legislative Affairs Commission (LAC) of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the task force understood that the Central Authorities had serious concerns about Hong Kong's future constitutional development, because the matter would affect the implementation of "One Country, Two
Systems" and the Basic Law, the relationship between the Central People's Government and the SAR, the interests of various strata and sectors of the community, and the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong.
The task force learnt that the Central Authorities considered that as the principles enshrined in the Basic Law were the foundation of the SAR's political structure, the future constitutional development of the SAR must accord with the relevant principles and legislative process in the Basic Law. Apart from the relevant legislative process, the HKMAO and the LAC agreed
that the issues on principles in the Basic Law identified by the task force at this stage were also areas of concerns to the Central authorities.
In this respect, the task force has already set out three areas of issues of principles in the Basic Law in the paper submitted to the Constitutional Affairs Panel of the Legislative Council on January 14, 2004.
First, Hong Kong's political structure must accord with the Basic Law and those provisions relating to the relationship between the Central Authorities and the SAR, including Article 1 of the Basic Law, which stipulates that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China; Article 12 which stipulates that the SAR comes directly under the Central People's Government (CPG); and
Articles 43 and 45 which stipulate that the Chief Executive is appointed by the CPG, and shall be accountable to the CPG and the SAR.
Second, the "actual situation" and the principle of "gradual and orderly progress" as contained in Articles 45 and 68 of the Basic Law.
Third, how the development of Hong Kong's political structure could accord with the explanations made by Mr Ji Pengfei when submitting the Basic Law (Draft) and its relevant documents to the Seventh National People's Congress (NPC) on March 28, 1990, that is, that Hong Kong's political structure should aim to maintain stability and prosperity in Hong Kong in line with its
legal status and actual situation. To this end, consideration must be given to the interests of the different sectors of society, and the structure must facilitate the development of the capitalist economy."
The task force understands that the Central Authorities consider that the methods for electing the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council of the HKSAR must fully implement and realise the above principles and be in accordance with the Basic Law. The Central Authorities have also indicated that the concept of "One Country, Two Systems" cannot be segregated and that
"Two Systems" is premised on "One Country". The development of the SAR's political structure needs to maintain the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, and the SAR should also fully consult the Central Authorities.
The Chief Secretary said that in view of the concerns of the Hong Kong people regarding constitutional development, and the issues to which the Central Authorities had asked the SAR to pay attention, the task force would put those issues relating to principles and legislative process in the Basic Law, in the form of questions, onto the website to be set up by the task
force early next week, so as to facilitate more focused and widespread discussion by the public and different organisations. In particular, compared with issues on the legislative process, relatively limited views had been received from the public and different organisations on issues of principles. Indeed, the task force had just begun its work and it had only met with
more than 10 organisations so far.
Mr Tsang said, "Both the Central Authorities and the HKSAR Government hope that the Hong Kong community will discuss these issues of principles rationally and thoroughly and strive for consensus, as the next step of our discussion on constitutional development will need to build upon these issues of principles and legislative process."
Mr Tsang emphasised that this was only the first meeting with the Central Authorities. The task force would need to continue discussions with the Central Authorities on this complex matter of constitutional development. The task force would also continue its meetings with various organisations and individuals, and collect more views from the public during this phase of the
task force's work as soon as possible.
Ends/Tuesday, February 10, 2004