LCQ15: Interpretation of Basic Law by NPCSC and its decision on methods for selecting CE in 2007 and forming LegCo in 2008
Following is a question by the Hon Martin Lee and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (June 2):
Regarding the interpretation by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress ("NPCSC") of Article 7 of Annex I and Article III of Annex II to the Basic Law and its decision on issues relating to the methods for selecting the Chief Executive ("CE") in the year 2007 and for forming the Legislative Council ("LegCo") in the year 2008, will the Government inform
(a) when CE was aware of the above interpretation and decision and their contents, and when he read the texts of the relevant interpretation and decision;
(b) whether CE had communicated with the officials of the Central Authorities before submitting the report to NPCSC on whether there is a need to amend the above two methods; if so, of the names and ranks of the officials involved and the contents of the communications; and
(c) whether CE had urged the Central Government or the NPCSC not to interpret the provisions of the Basic Law too readily, and not to rule out at this stage the selection of CE in the year 2007 and the election of all LegCo Members in the year 2008 by universal suffrage without fully seeking the views of the people of Hong Kong on constitutional reform beforehand?
Regarding the first part of the question, the meeting of the Chairman and Vice-Chairmen of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) announced on March 26 that the draft interpretation of Article 7 of Annex I and Article III of Annex II to the Basic Law would be considered at the meeting of the NPCSC between April 2 and 6. A few days before March 26,
the Central Authorities informed the Chief Executive (CE) that the relevant issue would be included in the agenda of the NPCSC's meeting. On April 6 (i.e. the day on which the draft interpretation was put to the NPCSC to vote), the CE received a copy of the interpretation passed by the NPCSC.
On April 19, the meeting of the NPCSC's Chairman and Vice-Chairmen decided that the report on constitutional development submitted by the CE would be included in the agenda of the NPCSC's meeting, and be discussed on April 25 and 26. On April 26, the NPCSC reached a decision on the methods for selecting the CE in 2007 and for forming the Legislative Council (LegCo) in
2008. The CE received a copy of the NPCSC's decision on the same day.
Regarding the second part of the question, last December, when the CE visited Beijing on his duty visit, he reported to the leaders of the Central Authorities the aspirations of Hong Kong people with regard to constitutional development, and indicated that constitutional development was an important issue which the HKSAR Government would need to address. The Central
Authorities expressed their serious concern about this matter. The CE announced the establishment of the Constitutional Development Task Force in the Policy Address in January 2004.
The decision of recommending to the NPCSC, in accordance with the NPCSC's interpretation on April 6, that the methods for selecting the CE in 2007 and for forming the LegCo in 2008 should be amended was made by the CE after considering fully the public views collected by the Task Force in the last few months.
Regarding the third part of the question, it is entirely legal and constitutional for the NPCSC to exercise its power under the Constitution and the Basic Law to give an interpretation on the relevant provisions of the Basic Law. On April 8, during a meeting with various sectors of the community in Hong Kong, the NPCSC's Deputy Secretary-General, Mr Qiao Xiaoyang,
reiterated that the NPCSC had been extremely cautious and serious in exercising its power of interpretation. The power would not be used lightly, and would only be exercised when it was fully justifiable to do so. He said that the NPCSC's interpretation would help put an end to the disputes in the Hong Kong community on the relevant provisions of the Basic Law, and provide
us with a clear set of legislative procedures in furthering the constitutional development of Hong Kong.
Before making its interpretation and decision, the NPCSC had considered fully the first and second reports of the Task Force. These two reports (together with their annexes) reflected fully the different views expressed by various sectors of the Hong Kong community to the Task Force. While some were supportive of implementing universal suffrage in 2007 and 2008, there were
also views which considered that 2007 and 2008 would not be the opportune time for introducing universal suffrage. Furthermore, Mr Qiao and others had met with representatives of the Hong Kong community in Shenzhen to listen to their views in person. As a matter of fact, in the NPCSC's decision published on April 26, it was mentioned that the NPCSC was, in the course of
the examination, fully aware of the recent concerns of the Hong Kong society about the methods for selecting the CE and for forming the LegCo after the year 2007.
Ends/Wednesday, June 2, 2004