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Response to UK Six-monthly Report on HK: Provisions of Basic Law more democratic than those in Joint Declaration

    In response to media enquiries, a Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau spokesman made the following responses today (July 26) to comments in the UK Six-monthly Report.

     Regarding constitutional development, the spokesman said that the provisions of the Basic Law regarding the electoral system were more democratic than those in the Joint Declaration.

     "The Joint Declaration did not specify universal suffrage for the Chief Executive (CE) and the Legislative Council (LegCo) as the goal, but only stipulated that the CE shall be selected by election or through consultations, and that the legislature shall be constituted by elections. The ultimate aim of universal suffrage was adopted when the Basic Law was enacted in 1990.

     "Hence, in dealing with the issue of universal suffrage, we must comply with the provisions of the Basic Law," he said.

     Since the Handover in 1997, Hong Kong had been making steady progress on constitutional development in accordance with the Basic Law, he said.

     "Indirect elections to the LegCo were only introduced in 1985, and only until 1995 were all LegCo seats returned through election. The Governor was appointed. The CE is now nominated and elected by a broadly representative Election Committee. We have also increased the proportion of seats returned by direct elections by 50 per cent in the seven years since the Handover, and accounts for half of all 60 seats in the LegCo," he said.

     The spokesman added that the Green Paper on Constitutional Development was promulgated with the clear policy objective of setting the models, roadmap and timetable for implementing universal suffrage.

     "This delivers one of the key electoral promises made by the CE during his election campaign. The fact that the HKSAR Government has issued this public consultation document 11 days after inauguration on July 1 underlines the commitment of the Government to resolve the issue of universal suffrage within the five year term.

     "We hope that, following the public consultation exercise, differences in opinions will have narrowed adequately for a mainstream view to be formed.

     "If so, we can put forth a package of proposals, which, hopefully, stands a good chance of securing two-thirds majority support in the LegCo, consent by the CE and endorsement by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

     "We hope that the issue of universal suffrage can be resolved in a satisfactory manner, and that thereafter Hong Kong can focus on promoting development of the economy and other aspects of social programmes," he said.

     The spokesman added that under the principle of "One Country, Two Systems", the high degree of autonomy and the executive, legislative and independent judicial power enjoyed by the HKSAR was conferred by the Central Authorities.

     "According to the design of the Basic Law, Hong Kong's political structure is an executive-led system. According to our constitutional arrangements, our executive authorities and the legislature exercise their respective functions, complement each other and operate with due checks and balances. Moreover, the independence of the judiciary is guaranteed by the Basic Law."

     The spokesman also said that human rights and individual freedoms had been fully respected and protected by the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance.

     "We can see local and overseas media discussing current affairs and livelihood issues in an open manner. This demonstrates that the freedom of speech and of the press have been fully safeguarded.

     "At present, there are more than 40 daily newspapers and 600 periodicals published in Hong Kong. Many international news agencies, trans-continental publications and overseas broadcasting companies have set up their Asia-Pacific headquarters or regional offices here.

     "These local and overseas media organisations are able to report actively on the latest updates on Hong Kong to the rest of the world."

Ends/Thursday, July 26, 2007