|Government's Statement on FCO's Eleventh Six-monthly Report on Hong Kong
In response to media enquiries on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO)'s eleventh six-monthly report on Hong Kong (January 1 to June 30, 2002), a Government spokesman said today (July 23), "We note that the UK Government has again made a positive assessment of developments in Hong Kong. The HKSAR Government is fully committed to the full and faithful implementation of the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, and the 'One Country, Two Systems' principle."
With the introduction of the accountability system for principal officials, the spokesman was confident that the governance of Hong Kong would be improved and the HKSAR Government would have a better grasp of public opinions and be more responsive to public sentiments. The much cherished civil service, which was permanent, stable, meritocratic, professional, clean and politically neutral, would be maintained.
"The introduction of the accountability system will bring about a more open, accountable and effective government and at the same time, preserve the strengths and core values of the civil service system," the spokesman said.
Turning to the constitutional development of Hong Kong, the spokesman commented that people from various sector of the community, while sharing a common goal to develop a system which would be in the long-term interest of Hong Kong and acceptable to the community at large, hold different views on the pace of democratic reform. "We will continue to listen to the views of different sectors of the community and conduct a review at the appropriate time. Decisions will be made only after extensive consultation."
On the rights of demonstration, the spokesman said that it was necessary for all metropolitan cities to have laws on assemblies for maintaining a proper balance between one's rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and the wider interest of the community. These provisions were particularly important for a small yet crowded place like Hong Kong.
"Since July 1, 1997, more than 10,000 public meetings and processions have been held in Hong Kong. This shows that people are free to enjoy the freedom of expression and assembly in Hong Kong."
Commenting on the proposal to introduce legislation to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law, the spokesman said that Hong Kong needed laws to ensure national security just like any other place in the world. While under Article 23, HKSARG should enact laws on its own to deal with a number of acts against the state, the spokesman stressed that there was yet to have a firm timetable for the enactment.
"In drawing up our proposals, we will take into account the provisions of the Basic Law guaranteeing our various freedoms and the continued application to Hong Kong of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We will consult the public widely when our proposals to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law are ready," the spokesman said.
On the right of abode issues, the spokesman reaffirmed that the HKSAR Government would handle the issues in accordance with the law, which is fully consistent with international human right obligations applicable to Hong Kong. "We respect the Court of Final Appeal's judgments on the three right of abode cases handed down on July 20, 2001 and have been processing other relevant cases in accordance with the law and the court's decision. We have requested the Permanent Representative of PRC to the United Nations to explain our position to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva."
The spokesman concluded that the HKSAR Government would continue to exercise a high degree of autonomy and would ensure that the cornerstones of Hong Kong's success remain firmly embedded. These include the rule of law and an independent judiciary, a level playing field, an advanced economic infrastructure and an open society in which all the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Basic Law are respected.
End/Tuesday, July 23, 2002.