In response to media enquiries on the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) 2014 Annual Report, a spokesman for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government said today (November 20) :
On Constitutional Development
"The HKSAR Government regrets that the latest report published by the USCC today is biased and the allegations on the constitutional development of Hong Kong therein unfounded and misleading. The HKSAR Government does not agree with views set out in the report. The report represents a lack of understanding of the USCC on the actual situation on the constitutional development of Hong Kong.
"The USCC's report has failed to take into consideration the constitutional set-up of the HKSAR. The HKSAR was established by the decision of the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China (PRC) pursuant to the Constitution of the PRC. According to the Basic Law (a national law and the constitutional document of the HKSAR), the HKSAR is a local administrative region of the PRC which enjoys a high degree of autonomy and comes directly under the Central People's Government. When discussing the method for selecting the Chief Executive (CE) of the HKSAR, one must bear in mind that the CE is the head of the HKSAR as well as the head of the HKSAR Government, being accountable to both the HKSAR and the Central People's Government of the PRC. A candidate of CE returned at a local election is subject to appointment by the Central People's Government before the incumbent can assume office. The selection of the CE by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative Nominating Committee in accordance with democratic procedures has its origin in Article 45 of the Basic Law promulgated back in 1990. The method for selecting the CE by universal suffrage must therefore strictly comply with the relevant provisions of the Basic Law, accord with the principle of 'One Country, Two Systems', and befit the legal status of the HKSAR.
"The Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong's return to China makes no mention at all of universal suffrage. All it states is that the CE should be selected by election or through consultations held locally and be appointed by the Central People's Government. It is only the Basic Law that mentions, for the first time, universal suffrage as the ultimate goal. Since the PRC resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong, the Central Authorities of the PRC, the HKSAR Government, together with the community of Hong Kong, have been working towards the ultimate goal of universal suffrage on a gradual and orderly process, taking into account the actual situation in the HKSAR.
"On August 31, 2014, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) adopted the Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on Issues Relating to the Selection of the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region by Universal Suffrage and on the Method for Forming the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in the Year 2016 (Decision). The Decision formally determined that universal suffrage for the CE election through 'one person, one vote' could be implemented from 2017 onwards. This is an important step forward of constitutional development of Hong Kong. If a consensus could be reached, five million eligible voters in Hong Kong could elect its next leader through 'one person, one vote' in 2017.
"To prepare for the implementation of universal suffrage for the CE election for the first time in our history, the HKSAR Government will consult the public on the specific method for selecting the CE by universal suffrage in 2017, with a view to submitting enabling legislation to the Legislative Council (LegCo) on amendments to the electoral method in Annex I to the Basic Law at an appropriate juncture. Different sectors of the community may engage in more in-depth and pragmatic discussions then on the specific arrangements for the CE election in 2017.
"It is the common aspiration of the Central Authorities of PRC, the HKSAR Government and the people of the HKSAR to successfully implement universal suffrage for the CE election in 2017 in accordance with the Basic Law and the relevant interpretation and decisions of the NPCSC. Detailed electoral methods, including the issues such as the composition of and specific nominating procedures for the Nominating Committee to nominate candidates for the CE election, are still subject to public consultation. It is unfortunate that the USCC's report has entirely overlooked the facts, but to denounce the concerted efforts of the Central Authorities of the PRC, the HKSAR Government and the community of Hong Kong to take forward democratic development of Hong Kong so as to enable about five million eligible voters in Hong Kong to elect their next leader through 'one person, one vote' in 2017 as scheduled.
On Public Order Events
"The freedom and right of procession and peaceful assembly are enshrined in the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance. The Police always handle public order events in a fair, just and impartial manner in accordance with the laws of Hong Kong. When expressing their aspirations, participants of public assemblies or processions were advised to abide by the laws of Hong Kong and respect other people's rights so that the events could proceed in a peaceful and orderly manner without compromising the Police's efforts to maintain law and order.
"The HKSAR Government has repeatedly urged protesters, who have been illegally occupying the roads since late September, to remove their obstacles as soon as possible and to disperse in a peaceful and orderly manner. Hong Kong is governed by the rule of law and the HKSAR Government will deal with the illegal activities associated with 'Occupy Central' in accordance with the law so that public order is maintained and the lives of all members of the public may return to normal as soon as possible. The Police will take suitable and resolute actions at the appropriate time.
On Military Presence in the HKSAR
"Since the Reunification, the Hong Kong Garrison has been performing defence functions and responsibilities in Hong Kong in strict accordance with the Basic Law and the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Garrisoning of the HKSAR (the Garrison Law). In accordance with the Garrison Law, the Hong Kong Garrison does not interfere with the local affairs of the HKSAR. Members of the Hong Kong Garrison abide by the national laws and the laws of the HKSAR at all times.
"According to Article 14 of the Basic Law, the Government of the HKSAR shall be responsible for the maintenance of public order in the Region. The law enforcement agencies of the HKSAR Government are fully capable of handling public order situations in Hong Kong. The HKSAR Government has no intention to seek assistance from the Hong Kong Garrison in dealing with the 'Occupy Central' protest.
On Press Freedom
"The HKSAR Government is firmly committed to protecting the freedom of expression and freedom of the press. These freedoms are rights enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong as enshrined in Article 27 of the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance.
"The HKSAR Government has all along been fostering an environment for the news industry to develop freely with minimum regulation. The media reports freely in Hong Kong and rigorously performs its role as a watchdog. The Government will not and cannot interfere with the internal operations of media organisations or commercial decisions of any private enterprise. As a matter of principle, we support that every endeavour should be made for journalists to report news professionally and accurately under the principle of editorial autonomy.
"At present, about 50 local newspapers and 720 periodicals are published in Hong Kong. About 90 international media organisations have offices in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is also the regional base for a number of international media.
"With reference to cases of violence against journalists, the Government strongly condemns the violent acts. The Government has always striven to maintain law and order and safeguard the personal safety of all members of the public. Every incident of violence will be tackled seriously under the law.
On USCC's Recommendation
"The HKSAR Government strongly objects to the USCC recommendation, which is made based on misguided and unfounded allegations, that the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act should be re-enacted. Foreign governments and legislatures should not interfere in any form in the internal affairs of Hong Kong."
Ends/Thursday, November 20, 2014