Following is a question by the Hon Audrey Eu and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (April 18):
Recently, there has been wide coverage in local newspapers and international media alleging that the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (LOCPG) has been profoundly intervening in Hong Kong's affairs, which may have breached Article 22 of the Basic Law and deviated from the principle of "One Country, Two Systems" and "a high degree of autonomy". After the Chief Executive (CE) Election, a foreign media organisation even commented that "One Country, Two Systems" is "the worst system, including all the others". In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) given that it was reported that during a meeting between officials of LOCPG and staff members of CE's Office in a clubhouse in February this year, the Head of Research of LOCPG severely criticised the Director of CE's Office for not trying his best to prevent this Council from exercising the powers conferred by the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance in investigating a CE candidate, whether the Government has taken any action (including giving an account of the truth to the public and condemning those actions which breach the Basic Law) regarding this incident to uphold the promise of "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong" as laid down in the Basic Law; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(b) given that some members of the Election Committee (EC members) alleged that LOCPG lobbied votes from quite a number of EC members for one of the candidates during the CE election period, whether the Government has taken any action (including launching investigation into the incident in accordance with the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance, as well as summonsing the people concerned for interviews, etc.) regarding this incident to uphold the promise of "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong" as laid down in the Basic Law; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(c) given that it was reported that the secretary of the person-in-charge of a newspaper had received a telephone message left by the Director-General of the Department of Publicity, Culture and Sports Affairs of LOCPG expressing dissatisfaction about the newspaper's reports which criticised LOCPG and the CE Election, whether the Government has taken any action (including finding out the truth from the media organisation concerned and condemning those actions which breach the Basic Law) regarding this incident to uphold the promise of "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong" as laid down in the Basic Law; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Our reply to the three parts of the question raised by the Hon Audrey Eu is as follows:
(a) Since the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), the Central Authorities have been acting strictly in accordance with the fundamental policies of "One Country, Two Systems", "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong", "a high degree of autonomy" and the provisions of the Basic Law in supporting the Chief Executive (CE) and the HKSAR Government in administering Hong Kong in accordance with the law, with a view to maintaining the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong. During his meeting with the CE-elect on April 11, President Hu Jintao also reiterated that the Central Authorities will, as in the past, continue to implement the policies of "One Country, Two Systems", "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong", "a high degree of autonomy", and support the CE and the HKSAR Government in administering Hong Kong in accordance with the law strictly adhering to the Basic Law.
The HKSAR Government has all along been maintaining working relationship with the Central Authorities and other Mainland departments in accordance with the Basic Law and the principle of "One Country, Two Systems". Hence, officials of the CE's Office have working meetings with officials of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR from time to time, which are entirely based on the actual operational needs.
The implementation of the Basic Law in the HKSAR is the duty of the CE and the HKSAR Government. We have never accepted, and will not accept pressure from any person.
The HKSAR Government will not comment on individual speculative reports by the media.
(b) The HKSAR Government, Electoral Affairs Commission and law enforcement agencies have all along been conducting their duties strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Law and the relevant electoral legislations, regulations and guidelines, with a view to ensuring that all elections, including the CE Election, are conducted in a fair, just, clean and honest manner.
Indeed, provisions relating to illegal conduct under the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance have provided safeguards against corrupt and illegal conduct in the CE Election. Section 11 of the Ordinance prohibits any person to offer or solicit advantage with the intention of affecting another person's voting preference. Section 13 prohibits the use of force or duress against a person to affect the voting preference of that person or a third person. Section 14 prohibits deceptive behaviour to affect the voting preference of another person or a third party.
In a CE Election, a member of the Election Committee (EC) chooses the candidate he prefers according to the preference of his/her constituency and his own free will. It is illegal for any person to attempt to make use of any measures not permitted under the law to affect the vote. The law enforcement agencies will take serious action against the responsible person.
On the other hand, as in any other public elections, different people will lobby EC members to vote for the candidates they support. This is normal and permitted in a free society. However, the lobbying must be conducted in accordance with the law and the ultimate voting decision should be made by the member according to his own free will.
To ensure that EC members can make their choices according to their own free will, the polling of the CE Election is conducted in a confidential manner as in other public elections. Having regard to the views and concerns expressed by the public on the confidentiality arrangements on voting, we implemented the following additional measures in the CE Election completed recently:
(i) Apart from issuing letters to EC members, we have also openly reminded them repeatedly that it is strictly forbidden to communicate with other people on voting matters, to take photos and to make audio or video recording within the polling station.
(ii) The Election and Registration Office (REO) has arranged for a large number of staff to assist EC members in voting and to monitor the voting process to ensure that no one can attempt to violate the relevant requirements.
(iii) A cover was installed on top of each of the voting compartments to further strengthen the confidentiality arrangements on site.
(iv) The CCTVs inside the polling station were either removed, switched off or diverted, and the control room was manned by the Police and staff of the REO.
We believe that the above arrangements have enhanced the confidence of EC members in casting their votes according to their own free will.
(c) Freedom of the press is the basic right of the public and the society. It is also one of the core values of Hong Kong protected by the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance. Hong Kong media has been actively monitoring the government's administration all along. It has also widely and freely commented on local and overseas news as well as the government's policies and work.
The report mentioned in the question raised by the Hon Eu has never been verified. It is also inappropriate for the HKSAR Government to enquire the media concerned directly on this matter. All in all, the HKSAR Government will not comment on speculative reports by the media.
On the other hand, during the process of the CE Election, printed and electronic media have made a host of reports on the candidates and various aspects of the election. This reflects the continuous implementation of freedom of the press in Hong Kong.
The HKSAR Government will continue to safeguard freedom of the press in accordance with the Basic Law and the principle of "One Country, Two Systems".
Ends/Wednesday, April 18, 2012