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HKSAR Government responds to US report on HK

In response to the part of the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China's report on Hong Kong, issued on October 5 , a government spokesman today (October 5)reiterated that the HKSAR Government would take forward constitutional development in accordance with the Basic Law.

He said, "The Basic Law provides that the elections of the Chief Executive and all Members of the Legislative Council (LegCo) by universal suffrage is the ultimate aim, and that this shall be achieved in the light of the actual situation in the HKSAR and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. On different occasions, our national leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to universal suffrage as the ultimate aim.

"The election for the third term Legislative Council held in September this year is an important milestone in Hong Kong's constitutional development. For the first time in Hong Kong's history, 50% of LegCo Members are returned by geographical constituencies through direct elections.

"The Hong Kong community generally supports universal suffrage as the ultimate aim of constitutional development. However, there are different views in the community on the pace for attaining this ultimate aim. The Constitutional Development Task Force chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration has reflected faithfully and fully to the Central Authorities the whole spectrum of views gathered in the Hong Kong community."

The NPCSC's Decision in April this year was taken after careful consideration of the views of the Hong Kong community. Although under the Decision, universal suffrage would not be introduced in 2007 and 2008 for the elections of the Chief Executive and all Members of LegCo, there is scope for making further changes to our electoral system and making progress towards the ultimate aim of universal suffrage.

"The Constitutional Development Task Force will endeavor to find common ground and build consensus as we take forward the constitutional development process," the spokesman said.

He pointed out that under the Constitution and the Basic Law, the HKSAR exercised a high degree of autonomy and enjoyed executive, legislative and independent judicial powers, including that of final adjudication.

The spokesman said, "It has never been intended under 'One Country, Two Systems' for the HKSAR to decide, completely on its own, on its political structure. By constitutional design, the Central Authorities have the powers and responsibilities to oversee Hong Kong's constitutional development. The decision taken by the NPCSC on Hong Kong's constitutional development was legal and proper.

"We hope that foreign governments and legislatures will continue to respect the principle that HKSAR's electoral arrangements should be made in accordance with the Basic Law."

The spokesman added, "Over the last seven years, with the strong support of the Central Authorities, we have successfully turned 'One Country, Two Systems' into an everyday reality and have been running Hong Kong under a high degree of autonomy. Our freedoms - of the press, expression, assembly, religion and many others - remain strong and are deeply rooted in the rule of law."

The spokesman pointed out that Hong Kong had always been a safe and peaceful city, with a crime rate lower than that of many developed countries. "We will not tolerate any acts of intimidation to our treasured freedoms, and any allegations of such intimidation will be thoroughly investigated by our police."

As regards the visit by the People's Liberation Army Navy earlier this year, the spokesman pointed that that under the Basic Law, the Central People's Government was responsible for the HKSAR's defence. "The PLA visits to the SAR from time to time are welcomed by the community," the spokesman said.

The spokesman further noted that over the years, the range of bilateral relations between Hong Kong and the US in areas such as trade, air services and export control were mutually beneficial. Hong Kong had also been playing an important role, working
with the US and other jurisdictions, in combating terrorism.

"It is in the mutual interest of Hong Kong and the US for our ties in different areas to be maintained and strengthened in the years ahead," the spokesman said.

Ends/Tuesday, October 5, 2004