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Government committed to preserving Hong Kong's core values

"The HKSAR Government remains firmly committed to preserving Hong Kong as a free, open and tolerant society, and that Government officials will continue to make their best endeavours to uphold the core values of Hong Kong," the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, said today (June 9).

Mr Lam made the above remarks during a motion debate on Hong Kong's core values in the Legislative Council today.

"Hong Kong's core values upon which our governance is built include an accountable, professional and transparent public administration system, the rule of law, freedoms and liberties, fair and honest elections and a fully independent judiciary which upholds rights and freedoms," he said.

Mr Lam said that these core values, established with the collaborative efforts of the Government and the community over the years, provided the basis for promoting Hong Kong's future development.

The officials of the HKSAR Government cherished these core values as much as the people of Hong Kong did. The Government would not allow them to be undermined by any individual or organisation, irrespective of their background.

Mr Lam said that freedom of speech was very much alive in Hong Kong.

"The fact that radio talk show hosts and callers to the programmes continue to express their views freely on air bears testimony to this," he said.

He added that new programme hosts took over the talk shows after the departure of the three radio programme hosts, and that Government officials continued to have dialogue with the new programme hosts to explain our position.

On the rule of law, Mr Lam said that since reunification there had been some 1,900 judicial review cases in which the Government's position was challenged.

"This goes to show that the HKSAR Government is no different from any man in the street, and that we are all equal before the law.

"By constitutional design, the power of interpreting the Basic Law rests with the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, while the Court of Final Appeal has the power of final adjudication over court cases. This institutes a new constitutional arrangement necessitated by the resumption of the exercising of sovereignty, while preserving the common law tradition of Hong Kong."

Mr Lam also underlined his commitment to keeping the upcoming LegCo elections free, open and honest. He said that the Electoral Affairs Commission would work closely with the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Police in ensuring that the elections were free from illegal or corrupt practices.

On the longer-term constitutional development, Mr Lam said that in societies as highly diversified as Hong Kong where people would have different views, one would have to accommodate one another's views to facilitate the emergence of an option that would receive broad-based support within the community.

He called upon different sectors of the community to make use of the existing channels to make known their views to the Constitutional Development Task Force.

Ends/Wednesday, June 9, 2004