In response to media enquiries, a Government spokesman today (April 9) made the following response to the comments in the United States State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2010 relating to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR):
“In respect of Hong Kong's constitutional development, the decision adopted by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) in December 2007 has made clear the universal suffrage timetable for Hong Kong, i.e. the Chief Executive may be elected by universal suffrage in 2017 and the Legislative Council (LegCo) may be elected by universal suffrage in 2020. Moreover, the two electoral methods for 2012 can be made more democratic.
The constitutional reform package for 2012 introduced by the Government was passed by the LegCo in June last year and the relevant amendments to Annexes I and II of the Basic Law were approved or recorded respectively by the NPCSC in August 2010. This greatly enhances the democratic elements of the two electoral methods for 2012 and broadens the room for political participation. Under the package, close to 60 per cent of all seats in the LegCo will have an electorate base of over three million electors. All registered electors will have two votes in the 2012 LegCo election, one in the Geographical Constituency election and the other in the Functional Constituency election.
The passage of the Chief Executive Election (Amendment) Bill and the Legislative Council (Amendment) Bill by the LegCo on March 3 and 5 this year respectively implements the constitutional reform package.
As to how the Functional Constituencies should be dealt with when universal suffrage for the LegCo is implemented, we have already made it clear that any universal suffrage model for the LegCo in 2020 should comply with the Basic Law and the principles of universal and equal suffrage. Different sectors of the community have diverse views on how this issue should be dealt with in future and need time to discuss it thoroughly.
The Administration will continue to address the issue of the abolition of the District Council appointment system and will put forth relevant proposals for consultation with the LegCo and the public.
On the relationship of the executive authorities and the legislature, the Basic Law clearly stipulates the respective powers and responsibilities of the executive authorities and the legislature. Under 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 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 opinion 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 opinions of the community, and have been supporting the work of the legislature. The executive authorities and the legislature will continue to act in accordance with the Basic Law.
The freedom of expression and freedom of the press are fundamental rights enjoyed by people in the HKSAR. These rights are enshrined in Article 27 of the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance.
The HKSAR Government is firmly committed to protecting the freedom of speech and of the press, and maintaining an environment in which a free and active press can operate under minimum regulation.
Hong Kong has developed a respect for the freedom of speech and of the press. As always, the media rigorously performs its role as a watchdog over the Government. It reports freely in Hong Kong, commenting extensively and liberally on local and external matters, and on the policies and work of the Government.
A free press, with rights and freedoms protected by the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance, is the most effective safeguard against self-censorship. Ultimately, those working in the field must protect the integrity of their profession.
The editorial independence of Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) is clearly enshrined in the RTHK Charter promulgated in August 2010. While the Board of Advisors tenders advice to RTHK, the ultimate editorial responsibility for RTHK rests with the Director of Broadcasting. The Board has no executive power.
Hong Kong's sound broadcasting licensing regime is drawn up based on local experience and having regard to best practices in overseas jurisdictions such as the US, UK and Australia. In addition, the Government would inform the licence applicant of the licensing decision with reasons for rejection in case the application is rejected.
The Government has also been committed to eliminating racial discrimination and promoting equal opportunities for ethnic minorities. The Race Discrimination Ordinance, which came into full operation in July 2009, provides legal protection for all against discrimination on the ground of race. The Equal Opportunities Commission is tasked to implement the Ordinance, and promotes racial equality in the community through public education programmes.
The Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau has issued a set of Administrative Guidelines on the Promotion of Racial Equality in April last year to provide guidance to relevant bureaux, departments and public bodies to promote racial equality and ensure equal access by ethnic minorities to public services in key areas.
The Government also attaches great importance to providing support measures to ethnic minorities. Four support service centres have been established in 2009 to provide support services to ethnic minorities to facilitate their integration into the community. These services include language and integration programmes as well as after-school tutorials to assist ethnic minority students in learning Chinese. To date, over 50,000 participants have benefitted from the services.
The Chinese Language curriculum designed by the Curriculum Development Council of Hong Kong provides a flexible and robust curriculum framework. Given the vastly different ethnic and language backgrounds, family expectations and duration of residence in Hong Kong of the non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students, we appreciate the need for rendering additional support to schools in the form of a supplementary guide. The 'Supplementary Guide to the Chinese Language Curriculum for NCS Students' (Supplementary Guide) was distributed to schools with a series of packages of learning and teaching materials in December 2008. This Supplementary Guide, which includes multiple curriculum modes of 'immersion in Chinese Language lessons', 'bridging / transition', 'specific learning purposes' and 'integration', caters for the diversified needs and aspirations of NCS students as second language learners at different stages of development. Schools are already making suitable adaptation to the curriculum, pitching for the appropriate learning level, leading to multiple exits including the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education, General Certificate for Secondary Education (Chinese) and other examinations for their NCS students. In addition, two full sets of learning and teaching materials were uploaded to the website of the Education Bureau, with printed copies distributed to schools and NCS students in September 2009 and September 2010 respectively. The Education Bureau will continue to collect feedback and provide appropriate support to teachers and students.”
Ends/Saturday, April 9, 2011