Following is a question by the Hon Fred Li and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (January 18):
It has recently been reported in the press that some academics are worried that academic freedom in Hong Kong is being sorely tested. On December 28, last year, the Public Opinion Programme (POP) at the University of Hong Kong released the results of a survey on Hong Kong people's ethnic identity, which showed that people's identification with "Hong Kong citizens" had reached a 10-year high while that of "Chinese citizens" had dropped to a 12-year low. At a tea gathering with television media held on December 29, last year, the Director-General of the Department of Publicity, Culture and Sports Affairs of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (LOCPG) criticised that the aforesaid survey was conducted in an "unscientific" and "illogical" manner. After the official has made such remarks, certain Hong Kong newspapers immediately echoed and published a number of articles for several consecutive days, criticising the purpose of the aforesaid survey, the words and deeds of the Director of POP, and commenting that the online election of the Chief Executive (CE) by all Hong Kong people, which is being organised by him to be held on March 23, this year (i.e. two days before the polling date for the election of the new term CE by the Election Committee), of "challenging the constitutional arrangements of Hong Kong". In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether it has assessed if the LOCPG official making the aforesaid remarks is interfering in Hong Kong's internal affairs; if it has assessed, of the details; if it has not, the reasons for that;
(b) whether any measure is in place to ensure that academic freedom in Hong Kong is free from political interference; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(c) whether it has assessed if the online election of CE by all Hong Kong people, which is being planned and organised by POP, poses "a challenge to the constitutional arrangements of Hong Kong"; if it has assessed, of the details; if it has not, the reasons for that?
Our reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:
(a) Since the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), the Central Government has been acting strictly in accordance with the fundamental policies of "One Country, Two Systems", "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong" and "a high degree of autonomy" and the provisions of the Basic Law and supporting the HKSAR Government in administering Hong Kong in accordance with the law, with a view to maintaining the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong.
Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are Hong Kong's core values protected by Article 27 of the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance. Hong Kong is a free, pluralistic and open society. Anyone can give opinions on various matters and the HKSAR Government fully respects the freedom of opinion of every individual.
(b) According to Article 34 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong residents shall have freedom to engage in academic research, etc. Moreover, Article 137 of the Basic Law states that educational institutions of all kinds may retain their autonomy and enjoy academic freedom.
Academic freedom is an important social value treasured by Hong Kong. The HKSAR Government has been striving to uphold academic freedom and maintain a free academic environment in strict accordance with the Basic Law so that academics can conduct academic activities, such as research and survey, uninhibited.
(c) The Chief Executive election to be held on March 25, this year will be conducted in strict accordance with the Basic Law and the Chief Executive Election Ordinance (Cap 569), and other relevant requirements and regulations. Other so-called Chief Executive election activities conducted by individual institution or organisation are not part of the aforesaid statutory process.
Ends/Wednesday, January 18, 2012