|HKSAR Government rejects Human Rights Watch Report
In response to a Human Rights Watch report on Hong Kong released today (September 9), a government spokesman said:
"The report by Human Rights Watch paints a distorted picture of the situation in Hong Kong, which remains one of the world's freest societies. This is not just commonly acknowledged in Hong Kong, but also internationally.
"The HKSAR Government will not allow anything to compromise the exercise of these freedoms by our citizens.
"Since reunification, the Central Authorities have unswervingly upheld their commitment by letting Hong Kong people run Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy in accordance with the Basic Law.
"The doubts raised in the report about the commitment of the Central Authorities to implement 'One Country, Two Systems' are groundless and uncalled for.
"In Hong Kong, our freedoms of speech, of the press, of assembly, of demonstration and in many other areas are constitutionally protected by the Basic Law and supported by the rule of law upheld by an independent judiciary.
"Anyone who visits Hong Kong will be able to see for themselves that we exercise these freedoms on a daily basis.
"Any suspected unlawful activities that threaten our freedoms will be pursued by our law enforcement agencies vigorously.
"Our police officers are sparing no efforts to investigate criminal intimidation cases involving the radio programme hosts. Other cases concerning vandalism are also being pursued actively.
"Indeed, court proceedings have been initiated against a number of suspects arrested in connection with one of the cases.
"Hong Kong has always been and remains a peaceful and safe city, with a lower crime rate than most places, including the US.
"Shortly after the resignation of the radio programme hosts, the Central Authorities have re-affirmed to the Chief Executive (CE) their staunch commitments to upholding 'One Country, Two Systems' and that they would not do anything to undermine this and the interests of Hong Kong.
"The Central Government also supports the HKSAR Government's efforts to safeguard the freedom of expression and of the press in accordance with the law.
"On elections, we take great pride in our fair, open and honest elections. We will not tolerate any illegal acts that may tarnish our reputation in this respect.
"People who have been following Hong Kong's developments closely will be aware that we have taken active and prompt measures to ensure the integrity of the upcoming Legislative Council (LegCo) election on September 12.
"Secrecy of votes is protected by law. In response to public concern, we have increased the penalties for the offence of taking photographs inside polling stations.
"Any illegal activities which seek to influence the proper conduct of elections will be vigorously pursued.
"The September election represents yet another important milestone as we move forward towards universal suffrage, which is the ultimate aim stipulated in the Basic Law. The Basic Law provides that the methods for electing the CE and the LegCo should move forward in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress and in the light of the actual situation of Hong Kong.
"On Hong Kong's constitutional development, it has never been intended under 'One Country, Two Systems' for the HKSAR, completely on its own, to decide on its political structure.
"By constitutional design, the Central Authorities have the powers and responsibilities to oversee Hong Kong's constitutional development.
"Time and again, our national leaders have expressed support for the development of democracy in Hong Kong and the ultimate aim of universal suffrage. The issue at present is the pace and time for attaining this goal.
"Although universal suffrage will not be introduced in 2007 and 2008 for the election of the Chief Executive and of LegCo, there is scope to further open up the electoral arrangements for those elections.
"The community will continue to play an important role in Hong Kong's constitutional development. The Constitutional Development Task Force chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration will endeavour to find common ground and build consensus as we take forward our constitutional development process."
Ends/Thursday, September 9, 2004