|HKSARG's response to FCO's 13th Six-monthly Report on Hong Kong
In response to media enquiries on the United Kingdom (UK) Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Thirteenth Six-monthly Report on Hong Kong (January 1 to June 30, 2003), a Government spokesman said today (July 16), "We note that the Report has again pointed out that the 'One Country, Two Systems' principle continues to work well in Hong Kong. It also pointed out that the basic rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong continued to be upheld."
The Report covers a wide range of issues including implementation of Article 23 of the Basic Law, constitutional development, the accountability system, SARS, legislation against racial discrimination, rendition of fugitive offenders between the Mainland and HKSAR and measures against money laundering and suspected terrorist financing.
Implementation of BL 23
The spokesman said that the HKSARG noted the UK Government's concerns on the National Security (Legislative Provisions) Bill. The spokesman reiterated that the Bill was in full accord with the "One Country, Two Systems" principle and international human rights standards.
"All our proposals are entirely consistent with human rights protected by the Basic Law. The Bill provides that all its provisions must be interpreted, applied and enforced in accordance with Chapter III of the Basic Law, which mandates strict compliance with international standards on rights and freedoms, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The Bill will not undermine fundamental rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents," the spokesman said.
On the proscription mechanism originally proposed in the Bill, the spokesman said that there was no question of extending Mainland laws or concepts on national security to the HKSAR. The power of proscription would only be exercised in accordance with the laws of the HKSAR and the ICCPR. All proscription decisions would be appealable in the courts of the HKSAR.
"Nevertheless, to alleviate the concerns of the public, the Government has decided to delete from the Bill the provision regarding a local organisation subordinate to a Mainland organisation that has been prohibited by the Central Authorities."
"The Government has also decided to introduce 'public interest' as a defence for unlawful disclosure of certain official information, in order to alleviate the concerns of the public, particularly those of the media, and to delete the provision that confers on the police the power to search without a court warrant in the exercise of their emergency investigation powers."
"Moreover, the Government has decided to defer the resumption of the second reading of the Bill. The Government will listen carefully to the views from the public and will deal with the matter prudently," the spokesman said.
On the constitutional development in the HKSAR, the spokesman said, "The Basic Law has laid down a blueprint for HKSAR's constitutional development. Annex II to the Basic Law provides for a progressive increase in the number of directly elected seats for the first three terms of LegCo after reunification. By 2004, half of the seats in LegCo will have been returned through direct election."
"The Basic Law also provides that we should pursue constitutional development, having regard to the actual situation in Hong Kong and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress, with the ultimate aim of attaining universal suffrage," he said.
The spokesman added that the Constitutional Affairs Bureau would conduct a review on post-2007 constitutional development in accordance with the Basic Law, and set aside sufficient time for wide public consultation. It would also reserve sufficient time to trigger the mechanisms prescribed in the relevant Annex of the Basic Law and deal with local legislation in connection with the review.
In the four years between now and 2006-07, the Bureau will undertake internal research, conduct public consultation and deal with local legislation. There will be adequate opportunities for the public to take part in the public consultation and to give their views.
On the accountability system, the spokesman said, "The implementation of the accountability system is an important step forward towards more effective governance of Hong Kong."
He acknowledged that the operation of the system in the past year had not been entirely smooth and said that the Government would learn from experience and strive for improvement and would aim to strengthen communication with the public and the Legislative Council (LegCo).
On SARS, the Report noted that the HKSAR Government had handled the crisis well and that within a few weeks of the "index case" being admitted to hospital, a series of emergency measures had been implemented to prevent the disease from spreading.
The Report went on to say that during the same period, the source of the disease had been discovered, the virus identified, a quick diagnostic test developed, treatment methods established, temperature checks at ports, airports and border crossing points introduced, those people who had been in "close contact" with SARS quarantined, and efforts stepped up in the community to improve cleanliness and hygiene.
"We welcome the acknowledgement of the efforts we made," the spokesman said.
Legislation against Racial Discrimination
The spokesman welcomed the UK Government's positive remarks on the proposal to legislate against racial discrimination. He said, "The proposed legislation would reaffirm the HKSARG's commitment to human rights, and assure the ethnic minorities that the Government is concerned about their rights and well being."
A consultation paper on the legislative proposals will be published and a Bill is scheduled for introduction into LegCo in the 2004-05 session.
Rendition of Fugitive Offenders
On rendition of fugitive offenders between the Mainland and HKSAR, the spokesman said that the HKSARG had commenced discussions with the Mainland authorities. Both sides acknowledge the need for a rendition arrangement to be concluded as early as possible.
In formulating the rendition arrangement, the HKSARG would fully take into account public views. Any final arrangement would have to be underpinned by local legislation and be acceptable to the Hong Kong community.
Measures against Money Laundering
On measures against money laundering and suspected terrorist financing, the spokesman said proactive steps had been taken by the HKSAR in regulating remittance agents and money changers through a registration system.
The HKSARG would conduct a review of the anti-money laundering requirements for these two sectors in the light of the new set of Forty Recommendations recently published by the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering.
End/Wednesday, July 16, 2003