Following is a question by the Hon Albert Ho Chun Yan and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (January 27):
It has been reported that during his visit to Hong Kong in 2008, State Vice-President Xi Jinping pointed out that there should be mutual understanding and support among the executive authorities, the legislature and the judiciary. On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the reunification of Macao in November last year, Vice-Minister of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council Zhang Xiaoming praised the relationship among the executive authorities, the legislature and the judiciary of Macao for putting emphasis on complementing one another. In response to such remarks, Deputy Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Li Gang stated that Macao and Hong Kong could draw reference from each other. Besides, Chief Justice Andrew Li of the Court of Final Appeal pointed out at the Ceremonial Opening of this Legal Year that the system in Hong Kong involved checks and balances among the executive authorities, the legislature and the judiciary. He also pointed out at a subsequent press conference that the legal system of Macao was entirely not suitable for Hong Kong. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether it has plans to cause the executive authorities, the legislature and the judiciary of Hong Kong to move towards the direction of understanding, supporting and complementing one another; if so, of the content of those plans; if not, the reasons for not implementing such plans;
(b) whether it is prepared to maintain the system of checks and balances among the executive authorities, the legislature and the judiciary; if not, of the reasons for that; and
(c) whether it will draw reference from the governance experience of Macao; if so, whether it has assessed which aspects of the composition and arrangements of the executive authorities, the legislature and the judiciary of Macao are worthy of Hong Kong drawing reference; if such an assessment has been made, of the results?
(a) In accordance with the Basic Law, the executive authorities, the legislature and the judiciary have their respective powers and responsibilities. Article 2 of the Basic Law clearly stipulates that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) enjoys executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication.
According to the design of the Basic Law, the political structure implemented in the HKSAR is basically an executive-led system headed by the Chief Executive. The Basic Law clearly stipulates the respective powers and responsibilities of the executive authorities and the legislature. Under the spirit of the Basic Law, the executive authorities and the legislature should both complement, and keep a check and balance on, each other's functions. Any bills and budgets must be put forth by the Government and approved by the Legislative Council (LegCo). Article 64 of the Basic Law provides that the HKSAR Government must abide by the law and be accountable to the LegCo: it shall implement laws passed by the LegCo and already in force; it shall present regular policy addresses to the LegCo; it shall answer questions raised by LegCo Members; and it shall obtain approval from the LegCo for taxation and public expenditure.
In formulating and implementing policies, the executive authorities must take full account of public opinions to ensure that the policies are reasonable and consistent with policy objectives. On this basis, the executive authorities have placed importance on the LegCo as an important channel for reflecting opinion of the community, and have been supporting the work of the legislature.
Moreover, Article 85 states that the HKSAR courts shall exercise judicial power independently, free from any interference. As the rule of law is an important core value of Hong Kong, the consistent position of the HKSAR Government is that we should strive to preserve the independence of the judiciary.
The executive authorities, the legislature and the judiciary will continue to act in accordance with the Basic Law.
(b) As stated above, under the Basic Law, the relationship between the executive authorities and the legislature is one of mutual regulation and coordination; the courts of Hong Kong exercise judicial power independently, free from any interference. The HKSAR is established in accordance with the Basic Law, and the people of Hong Kong support the implementation of "One Country, Two Systems" in Hong Kong. The HKSAR Government will certainly continue to act in accordance with the Basic Law.
(c) The Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Regions both have their unique historical background, social environment, constitutional arrangements and political systems. Under the principle of "One Country, Two Systems", the executive authorities, the legislature and the judiciary of Hong Kong, being a special administrative region, will continue to act in accordance with the Basic Law.
Hong Kong and Macau have all along been undertaking exchanges and cooperation primarily on economic, social and livelihood issues. Mutual cooperation between the two SAR Governments has been dealt with in accordance with the powers provided by the Hong Kong and Macau Basic Laws respectively.
Ends/Wednesday, January 27, 2010