In response to a Letter from Hong Kong by Mr Denis Chang, SC, broadcast on RTHK yesterday, a spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said that Hong Kong could maintain rule of law and attain universal suffrage in accordance with the Basic Law.
He said, "The Hong Kong SAR is established in accordance with Article 31 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China. Article 62 of the Constitution stipulates that the National People's Congress prescribes the systems practised in the HKSAR.
"The National People's Congress authorises the HKSAR to exercise a high degree of autonomy and enjoy executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication.
"The basic policies of the People's Republic of China (PRC) regarding Hong Kong, i.e. 'One Country, Two Systems', 'Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong' and a high degree of autonomy, have been implemented through the Basic Law and will not be changed.
"The statement on 'One Country, Two Systems' made by the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, Mr Wu Bangguo, it is entirely based on the principles and provisions in the Basic Law."
On HKSAR's power of final adjudication, the spokesman said, "The Court of Final Appeal is the final appellate court for all court cases arising in Hong Kong. Court cases never go to Beijing for adjudication. The Court of Final Appeal can also interpret the Basic Law when adjudicating the cases.
"The arrangement of enabling the Court of Final Appeal to exercise the power of final adjudication over court cases and the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) to exercise the power of final interpretation of the Basic Law is a unique arrangement which realises 'One Country, Two Systems' and a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong."
He said that however, any interpretation made by the NPCSC would not affect judgments which had already been made by the Court of Final Appeal.
Also, the exercise of this power of interpretation had been accepted and supported by the Hong Kong community (such as in the case of right of abode and the issue of the CE returned through by-election to serve the remaining term).
The Court of Final Appeal had also made it clear that it would abide by interpretations of the Basic Law made by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, he said.
Concerning constitutional development, he said, "The political system of the HKSAR is formulated in accordance with the Basic Law.
"When the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) was extended to Hong Kong by the British Government in 1976, a reservation was made. Article 25 (b) of the ICCPR is not applicable to Hong Kong, i.e. Article 25 (b) which concerns elections is not applicable to the Executive Council and Legislative Council. This was the arrangement made.
"According to the note submitted to the Secretary General of the United Nations by the Central Government and Article 39 of the Basic Law, the reservation is still applicable to the HKSAR.
"Although Article 25 (b) of the ICCPR is not applicable to the HKSAR, Hong Kong will implement universal suffrage because when the Basic Law was enacted in 1990, universal suffrage was already stipulated as the ultimate aim.
"Therefore, the attaining of universal suffrage originates from the Basic Law and it is not because of the fact that the ICCPR is applicable to Hong Kong."
The spokesman said, "The Chief Executive (CE), Mr Donald Tsang, has firmly undertaken that he would deal with the issue of universal suffrage in the next five years within his term, with a view to coming up with a solution.
"This position taken by the CE is more advanced than that adopted in any previous term of the HKSAR Government.
"After 20 months' discussions by the Commission on Strategic Development and the Legislative Council (LegCo), the discussion on implementing universal suffrage for the CE and LegCo has entered a substantive stage.
"We have received many proposals, which have provided a good basis to publish a Green Paper on constitutional development and to consult the public," he said.
As to the two routes of development set up by Mr Denis Chang, the spokesman said, "The way forward for Hong Kong would be to comply with the basic policies set by the Central Authorities and the provisions of the Basic Law; this would be entirely adequate to maintain Hong Kong's rule of law, and to develop democracy step by step; provided that different sectors of the community are prepared to accommodate mutual differences and widen the common ground in building consensus, the ultimate aim of universal suffrage will be attained ."
Ends/Tuesday, July 2, 2007