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Government's response to comments on human rights situation in Hong Kong

     Hong Kong is fully committed to protecting human rights, a government spokesman reiterated today (February 3).

     In response to the press statement issued by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) regarding the human rights situation in Hong Kong, the spokesman said, "The legislative safeguards on human rights are enshrined in the Basic Law, the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance and other relevant ordinances. They are buttressed by the rule of law and an independent judiciary.

     "In accordance with the Basic Law, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) enjoys a high degree of autonomy as well as executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication.

     "The past decade demonstrated that the 'One Country, Two System' has been successfully implemented here," the spokesman said.

     In accordance with the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and the Basic Law of the HKSAR, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) has the power to interpret the Basic Law, the spokesman said.

     "Since the reunification of the HKSAR, it can be seen that the NPCSC has exercised such power only when there is a genuine need. The exercise of such power has not affected, and will not affect the judicial independence, rule of law or high degree of autonomy of the HKSAR,” he said.

     Regarding the implementation of universal suffrage, the decision adopted by the NPCSC in December 2007 has made clear the timetable for attaining universal suffrage in Hong Kong, i.e. the Chief Executive may be elected by universal suffrage in 2017 and Legislative Council may be elected by universal suffrage in 2020, the spokesman said. Between 2008 and 2012, the Government of the HKSAR will endeavour to roll forward Hong Kong's electoral methods to a mid-way point.

     "Since the HKSAR's existing framework, including the legislative framework, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, statutory bodies and institutions and a comprehensive legal aid system has been operating well, the HKSAR Government does not see the need for establishing another human rights institution to duplicate or to supersede existing mechanisms," he said.

     On the handling of complaints against Police officers, with the enactment of the Independent Police Complaint Council Ordinance in July 2008, the Independent Police Complaint Council will be put on a statutory basis, thus enhancing the independence of the Council as well as the transparency of the police complaint system.

     The freedoms of speech and of the press are core values of Hong Kong and are guaranteed under the Basic Law and through the Hong Kong Bills of Rights Ordinance. The spokesman said that the editorial independence of Radio and Television Hong Kong was also well established.

     "The Government will continue to uphold these fundamental rights as we consider the future of public service broadcasting in Hong Kong," he said.

     Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan city and the people of Hong Kong have a well established tradition of living in harmony with and respect for persons from diverse cultural background and ethnic origins, the spokesman said. The enactment of the Race Discrimination Ordinance is a major step forward demonstrating the Government's commitment on eliminating unlawful racial discrimination. The Government will implement additional measures to reinforce support services for ethnic minorities.

    The spokesman added that the Government also attached great importance to poverty alleviation work, and adopted a comprehensive multi-prong approach in assisting the poor. The Task Force on Poverty established in 2007 will co-ordinate efforts across the Government in this regard and monitor the overall progress.

     A team representing the HKSAR Government will attend a hearing to be held under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland on February 9 - 11.  The five-member team will be led by the Under Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam.  The delegation also comprises officials from the Department of Justice, the Security Bureau, the Labour and Welfare Bureau and the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau.

     "The Hong Kong team will attend the hearing as part of China's delegation. During the hearing, the UNHRC will examine China's report which incorporates the report on the HKSAR.  The team will answer questions raised by the Council on various human right issues in the HKSAR."

Ends/Tuesday, February 3, 2009