In response to media enquiries, a Government spokesman today (November 20) made the following response to comments in the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) 2009 Annual Report relating to Hong Kong:
"We are very concerned and consider it regrettable that the report has made groundless comments that the Central Government has continued to expand its influence over the government and economy of Hong Kong. On the contrary, since the Handover, Hong Kong has continued to enjoy a high degree of autonomy under 'One Country, Two Systems' guaranteed under the Basic Law.
The best proof that the provisions of the Basic Law and undertaking given in the Joint Declaration have been fully implemented is the manner in which Hong Kong continues to operate day-to-day. Hong Kong is a free society under which the rule of law, and our freedoms, human rights and an independent judiciary have been preserved and maintained. Hong Kong continues to be an international and regional trading and financial centre.
"We also have open and clean elections supervised by the Electoral Affairs Commission which is an independent statutory body chaired by a High Court Judge. As a matter of fact, Hong Kong has 3.3 million registered voters, and in recent Legislative Council elections, more than 1.5 million voters took part. It would not be possible for the Government or any organisation to influence the outcome of the votes cast by secret ballot.
Moreover, Hong Kong people would be able to elect their Chief Executive and Legislative Council Members by universal suffrage in 2017 and 2020 respectively. The Standing Committee of National People's Congress made a decision in December 2007, which has made clear the timetable for attaining universal suffrage. This carries most important significance for Hong Kong's constitutional development. It is, therefore, misguided and unfounded for the USCC to draw the conclusion that the Central Authorities have been deliberately encroaching upon the autonomy of Hong Kong's government. Instead, through the universal suffrage timetable, the Central Authorities have provided a firm foundation for Hong Kong to roll forward democracy.
Over the years, the Central Authorities have put in place various measures that are conducive to the economic development of both Hong Kong and the Mainland.??For example, the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), individual visit scheme, and expansion of RMB business have been introduced to provide greater economic opportunities not only for Hong Kong but also the Mainland. All such measures have strengthened further cooperation between the Mainland and Hong Kong within the framework of 'One Country, Two Systems'.
Since the financial tsunami occurred last year, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development??economies and governments of the first world countries have concluded that the China economy is very important to recovery of economies around the world. In an era of globalisation, mutual dependence among economies is a natural development. Again, it is misguided and unfounded for the USCC to conclude that growing dependence of the Mainland and Hong Kong economies would undermine Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy.
The speculation that Hong Kong could emerge as a significant transshipment point for transfers of export-controlled technologies into China is again unfounded. As provided in the Basic Law, Hong Kong is a separate customs territory. Under the 'One Country, Two Systems' principle, Hong Kong has autonomy in operating the strategic trade control system. We administer our own control system which is separate from that of the Mainland.??
Hong Kong has always been fully committed to maintaining comprehensive and stringent controls on trade in strategic commodities. Our system is law-based, objective and transparent. In contrast to most members of international strategic trade control regimes which control only export of strategic commodities, Hong Kong implements both import and export licensing. For re-exports via Hong Kong to the Mainland, the import of such goods into Hong Kong and their subsequent re-exports to the Mainland must be covered by valid licences. The transit of more sensitive strategic commodities also requires import and export licences. We have strong economic interest to do so. A good system of control will ensure our continued access to high-tech products for keeping our role as an international business and trade centre.??Hong Kong has been enforcing the controls seriously and vigorously and has been closely co-operating with our trading partners, including the US, on suspected instances of illegal transshipment.
It is also not true that the Central Authorities have exerted pressure over Hong Kong's visa policy. Similar to other immigration authorities around the world, the Immigration Department has the responsibility to uphold effective immigration control and the power to refuse entry where necessary. In so doing, the department takes into account the law, the prevailing policy and relevant factors and circumstances pertaining to a case. Each entry application is determined on its individual merits.??
We strongly disagree to the USCC recommendation, which is made based on misguided and unfounded speculations, that the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act should be re-enacted. In any event, the implementation of 'One Country, Two Systems' according to the Basic Law is part of our internal affairs. This is a matter for the HKSAR and the Central Authorities to deal with according to the Basic Law. We hope that foreign governments and legislatures will continue to respect this principle."
Ends/Friday, November 20, 2009