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Response to United States report on human rights

     In response to media enquiries, a spokesman for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government today (April 14) made the following response to the comments contained in the United States Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2015 relating to the HKSAR:

Missing person cases

     Since Hong Kong's return to China, the HKSAR Government has been dealing with matters relating to the HKSAR strictly in accordance with the principle of "one country, two systems" and the Basic Law. According to the law of the HKSAR, law enforcement officers outside the HKSAR do not have authority to enforce laws in the HKSAR. Except properly permitted under the laws, we shall not tolerate any unauthorised law enforcement action by anyone or any organisation. It is in contravention of the law of the HKSAR for law enforcement officers from outside the HKSAR to enforce laws in the HKSAR.

Freedom of the press and speech

     The Government is firmly committed to protecting the freedom of expression and freedom of the press, which are fundamental rights guaranteed by the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance. We support the principle of editorial autonomy in journalistic work, and will not tolerate any act of violence whether or not targeted at the press.

Academic freedom

     Academic freedom is an important social value treasured by Hong Kong and protected by the Basic Law. It is also a cornerstone of our higher education sector. The HKSAR Government attaches great importance to upholding academic freedom and institutional autonomy.

     The eight University Grants Committee (UGC)-funded institutions are all independent and autonomous statutory bodies. They have their own governing ordinances and statutes which set out their objectives, functions and governance structure. The legislation provides the institutions with the power and freedom to carry out their objectives and functions. The UGC also safeguards academic freedom and institutional autonomy. In fact, the roles of the UGC, the Government and the institutions in the higher education sector are clearly defined in the UGC Notes on Procedures. In particular, the Notes on Procedures set out the major areas of institutional autonomy, including selection of staff; selection of students; curricula and academic standards; acceptance of research programmes; and allocation of funds within the institution.

     Regarding the appointment of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), it should be noted that HKU is a statutory body. According to its governing Ordinance and Statutes, the appointment shall be made by the Council of HKU on the terms and conditions prescribed by the Council. The Government has no role to play in this matter.

Non-Chinese speaking students learning Chinese

     In 2014, the Government announced a series of measures to strengthen the support for ethnic minorities, including enhanced support for non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students in learning the Chinese language. Starting from the 2014/15 school year, about $200 million per year has been allocated to step up the education support for NCS students in learning the Chinese language through, among others, the implementation of the Chinese Language Curriculum Second Language Learning Framework in primary and secondary schools and the creation of an inclusive learning environment in schools. In tandem, teachers are provided with professional development programmes and learning materials to help NCS students overcome the difficulties of learning Chinese as a second language. Furthermore, Applied Learning Chinese (for NCS Students) courses have been provided at senior secondary level to offer an additional channel for NCS students to acquire an alternative recognised qualification to facilitate their academic and career pursuits in future.

     We reiterated that the HKSAR Government is firmly committed to protecting the various rights enjoyed by Hong Kong people in accordance with the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance. Foreign governments should refrain from intervening in the HKSAR's internal affairs.

Ends/Thursday, April 14, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:50