In response to the comments by Legislative Councillor, Mr Albert Ho, in RTHK's "Letter to Hong Kong" broadcast earlier today (June 8), a Government spokesman issued the following statement :
"The position adopted by the HKSAR Government regarding nationality requirements for Under Secretaries and Political Assistants recently appointed is entirely consistent with the Basic Law. Under the Basic Law, the Under Secretaries and Political Assistants are not Principal Officials and do not have to be appointed by the Central People's Government. They are appointed by the Chief Executive. In accordance with the Basic Law, as public servants, they have to be permanent residents of the HKSAR.
"In the Draft Basic Law for Solicitation of Opinions published in 1988, it was proposed that the "Deputy Directors for Security and Civil Service" should also be required to be Chinese nationals with no foreign right of abode (i.e. as for Principal Officials). However, when the Basic Law was promulgated in 1990, the above reference to "Deputy Directors" was not included. Therefore, the legislative intent of the Basic Law is clear. The restriction under Article 61 of the Basic Law on not having foreign right of abode only applies to Principal Officials but not Deputy Directors of Bureaux (i.e. Under Secretaries).
"In 1996, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress promulgated the Interpretation on the application of the Chinese Nationality Law in Hong Kong. Under this Interpretation, Chinese nationals who are permanent residents of Hong Kong after emigrating overseas can return to Hong Kong and retain their Chinese nationality status. At the same time, they can retain identity documents issued by foreign governments as travel documents. This Interpretation was widely welcomed by the Hong Kong community.
"The HKSAR Government intends to select from among the most well qualified and able people to be political appointees. We would not exclude Hong Kong permanent residents, who have foreign right of abode, from being considered for these positions. It is in Hong Kong's interest to broaden the pool of talent we can draw from.
"We respect the personal decisions of Deputy Directors of Bureau and Political Assistants on whether to disclose and how to handle any right of abode in foreign countries they may have.
"As for the issue of remuneration for these political appointees, the packages offered are entirely consistent with the approval given by the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council in December 2007.
"The HKSAR Government is committed to public accountability. Accordingly, earlier on we have already disclosed the distribution of remuneration points for the new appointees.
"The information released will facilitate public scrutiny of the public funds involved in the implementation of the new scheme."
Ends/Sunday, June 8, 2008