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Response to US-HK Policy Act Report 2005

A spokesperson of Constitutional Affairs Bureau today (April 13) said, "We note the report published by US under US-HK Policy Act. The report pointed out that Hong Kong continued to exercise a high degree of autonomy, various freedoms and human rights remained respected and defended, and rule of law and an independent judiciary continued to prevail."

On constitutional development, the spokesman said, "the HKSAR Government is committed to further opening up the methods for selecting the Chief Executive in 2007 and forming the Legislative Council in 2008."

In response to remarks in the US Report on the decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) in April 2004, the spokesman said, "In its decision, the NPCSC reaffirmed that developing democracy in Hong Kong in the light of the actual situation and in a gradual and orderly manner according to the provisions of the Basic Law was the resolute and firm stance of the Central Authorities."

"In making that decision, the NPCSC was fully aware of the concerns of the Hong Kong community, including different views on the pace of achieving universal suffrage. The NPCSC decision clarified the scope of amendments to be made to the electoral methods for 2007 and 2008."

"By constitutional design, it has never been intended that Hong Kong could on our own decide on its constitutional development. For changes to be made to the electoral arrangements after 2007, the Basic Law has prescribed that endorsement from two-thirds majority of LegCo Members, consent of the CE and approval of the Central Authorities is needed."

"The Constitutional Development Task Force, led by the Chief Secretary for Administration, has been consulting the public on changes to be made to the two methods."

"The period of consultation concerning the Fourth Report has been extended until May 31. We will endeavour to publish the Fifth Report in the latter half of this year after consulting the new Chief Executive who will be elected on July 10. Thereafter, we would deal with the amendments to Annex I and Annex II to the Basic Law within this year.

Hong Kong is taking forward discussion on constitutional development. We hope that foreign governments and legislature will respect this process and the principle that Hong Kong affairs are for Hong Kong to manage in accordance with the Basic Law.

On the term of office of the new Chief Executive to be elected on July 10, 2005, the spokesman said that the position of the Government is that it shall be the remainder of the term of the preceding Chief Executive, i.e. until June 30, 2007.

"In coming to this position, the Government has examined thoroughly and carefully the relevant provisions of the Basic Law and the legislative intent of these provisions," the spokesman explained.

The spokesman said that the Government's decision to request the State Council to seek an interpretation by the NPCSC regarding the relevant provisions of the Basic Law is the only way forward to ensure that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region could elect a new Chief Executive lawfully and in time on July 10, and is consistent with the fundamental interests of Hong Kong.

The spokesman emphasised that seeking an interpretation by the NPCSC by the SAR Government would not affect "One Country Two Systems", "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong", and "a high degree of autonomy", nor would it damage the rule of law on which Hong Kong's success is based.

The spokesman said, "under the design of 'One Country Two Systems', the NPCSC has the power to interpret the Basic Law. This is part of Hong Kong's constitutional structure. It is lawful and constitutional to settle the issue of the term of office of the new Chief Executive by seeking the most authoritative interpretation in accordance with the Basic Law."

Ends/Wednesday, April 13, 2005