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HKSARG's response to UK report refutes suggestion of erosion of autonomy

In response to media enquiries on the UK Government's Six-monthly Report on Hong Kong, a Government spokesman said today (July 20) that the principles of "One Country, Two Systems" and "Hong Kong people running Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy" were being fully implemented in Hong Kong and people's rights and freedoms continued to be upheld. "The HKSAR Government continues to govern Hong Kong in strict accordance with the Basic Law," the spokesman said.

He said that the HKSAR Government would actively promote constitutional development in Hong Kong on the basis of maintaining "One Country, Two Systems" and adhering to the Basic Law.

"According to the relevant provisions in the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and the Basic Law, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) has the power to interpret the Basic Law. The exercise of that power by the NPCSC is lawful and constitutional, and has in no way affected Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy or the rule of law," the spokesman said.

The spokesman explained that the methods for electing the Chief Executive and for forming the Legislative Council concerned Hong Kong's political structure. The design of the political structure was relevant to giving effect to the exercise of sovereignty, as well as the implementation of "One Country, Two Systems" and the basic policies of the Central Authorities.

"Under the Basic Law, it has never been intended that Hong Kong can, on its own, decide on changes to its political structure.

"It is important to have a proper understanding of Hong Kong's constitutional order in any discussion on Hong Kong's political structure, including the methods to elect the Chief Executive and to form the Legislative Council," the spokesman said.

He pointed out that in the light of the relevant provisions of the Basic Law and the decision of the NPCSC adopted on April 26, the Constitutional Development Task Force headed by the Chief Secretary for Administration published its Third Report on May 11. The report set out the areas which might be considered for amendment in respect of the methods for the selection of the Chief Executive in 2007 and for forming the Legislative Council in 2008.

"The Task Force is in the process of garnering views and specific proposals from individuals and organisations in the community. In the autumn, the Task Force will consolidate the more representative views received and set them out in a further report for another round of public consultation," the spokesman said.

"There is plenty of room for us to contemplate changes to the election methods for selecting the Chief Executive and for forming the Legislative Council. We are collecting views from the community in this respect," the spokesman said.

The spokesman said that the SAR Government remained fully committed to progressing towards the ultimate aim of universal suffrage in a gradual and orderly manner and having due regard to the actual situation of Hong Kong as prescribed in the Basic Law.

"The people of Hong Kong will continue to play an important role in the on-going discussion on the electoral arrangements for 2007/08," the spokesman added.

On freedom of expression, the spokesman said that it was very much alive in Hong Kong.

The spokesman said that freedom of speech and of the press were fundamental rights of the Hong Kong people, and were constitutionally protected under Chapter III of the Basic Law. The SAR Government would not tolerate any acts of intimidation, threats, criminal damage or violence against anybody in the community to pressurize them into doing things that they did not wish to.

The spokesman said that the Chief Executive was highly concerned by the incident. He made enquiries with the relevant Central Authorities and had been told that the Central Government would not do anything to undermine "One Country, Two Systems" and the interests of Hong Kong, and that the Central Government also supported the SAR Government to take action to safeguard the freedom of expression and of the press in accordance with the law.

The spokesman 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 LegCo election to be held in September 2004, the spokesman said that the Government was committed to ensuring that all public elections in Hong Kong were conducted openly, honestly and fairly.

"We will not tolerate any illegal acts that will damage the integrity of the electoral process," the spokesman said.

He added that Hong Kong had a comprehensive statutory framework to govern the conduct of elections. "As always, the Electoral Affairs Commission will work closely with the Independent Commission Against Corruption in ensuring that the upcoming Legislative Council elections are clean and free from any illegal or corrupt practices," he said.

The Government has also put in place publicity measures to promote public awareness of various arrangements and legislative provisions which protect the secrecy of votes, and to enhance public understanding of measures against corrupt and illegal conduct in elections, the spokesman added.

Ends/Tuesday, July 20, 2004