|LCQ1: Affairs which the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region administers on its own in accordance with the Basic Law
Following is a question by the Hon James To and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Patrick Nip, in the Legislative Council today (July 12):
Article 22 of the Basic Law stipulates that no department of the Central People's Government (CPG) and no province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the Central Government may interfere in the affairs which the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) administers on its own in accordance with the Law. When she was running for the CE election as well as after being elected and before assuming office, the Chief Executive (CE) stated that Hong Kong's affairs were to be handled by the SAR Government, and the policies which might be implemented only with approval of this Council should be pushed by the various Secretaries and Directors of Bureaux and even CE. She also said that she did not agree with or approve of the practice of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (LOCPG) assisting the SAR Government in seeking support from Members of this Council for government policies (commonly known as "soliciting votes"), nor would she take the initiative to request for such assistance. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it will request CPG to expressly order the various departments of CPG, the various provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government as well as LOCPG to strictly comply with the stipulation in Article 22 of the Basic Law, which is that they may not interfere in the affairs which SAR administers on its own; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) how the Government will implement the pledge made by CE, after being elected and before assuming office, that CE would not take the initiative to request LOCPG to assist in soliciting votes; and
(3) as CE said, after being elected and before assuming office, that she could not deny the fact that LOCPG did assist the SAR Government in soliciting votes when the Government promoted its policies in the past, whether the Government has assessed if such practice of LOCPG constituted an interference in the affairs of Hong Kong, thereby seriously contravening the principle that a high degree of autonomy be implemented in Hong Kong; if it has assessed, of the outcome; if not, the reasons for that?
Our consolidated reply to the question raised by the Hon To is as follows:
According to Article 2 of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (the Basic Law), the National People's Congress authorises the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) to exercise a high degree of autonomy and enjoy executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication, in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Law. Article 16 of the Basic Law stipulates that the HKSAR shall be vested with executive power and shall, on its own, conduct the administrative affairs of the HKSAR in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Basic Law.
Moreover, Article 22 of the Basic Law stipulates that no department of the Central People's Government (CPG) and no province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the Central Government may interfere in the affairs which the HKSAR administers on its own in accordance with the Basic Law. All offices set up in the HKSAR by departments of the Central Government, or by provinces, autonomous regions, or municipalities directly under the Central Government, and the personnel of these offices shall abide by the laws of the HKSAR.
Since the establishment of the HKSAR, the HKSAR Government and the offices set up by the CPG in the HKSAR have been acting in strict accordance with the basic policies of "one country, two systems", "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" and a high degree of autonomy, as well as complying with the provisions of the Basic Law in performing their respective duties. Based on this premise, the lobbying work on Legislative Council (LegCo) Members, or what is commonly known as "soliciting votes", as referred to in the question, should be the responsibility of the politically appointed officials of the HKSAR Government, especially if the policy proposal involved is one put forward to the LegCo by Secretaries and Directors of Bureaux.
The question specifically refers to the functions and roles of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (CPGLO). As stated in its official website, the CPGLO is an office set up by the CPG in the HKSAR. Its main functions include liaising with the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the HKSAR and the Hong Kong Garrison of the Chinese People's Liberation Army; promoting economic, educational, scientific and technological, cultural and athletic exchanges and co-operation between Hong Kong and the Mainland; liaising with various sectors of the community of Hong Kong to enhance exchanges between the Mainland and Hong Kong; and reflecting the views of Hong Kong residents on the Mainland, etc. When addressing Members at the Chief Executive's Question and Answer Session held on July 5, the Chief Executive (CE) made it very clear that the work of the offices set up by the Central Government in the HKSAR is determined by the Central Authorities. As one of the functions of the CPGLO is to liaise with various sectors of the community of Hong Kong, it is normal for the CPGLO to liaise and communicate with LegCo Members having regard to its operational needs.
The CE has, in her opening remarks at the above Question and Answer Session last week, indeed taken the initiative to make the point that she attached great importance to improving the relationship between the executive and the legislature. She reiterated sincerely the need for the executive and the legislature to develop a new relationship based on long-term and proactive communication. She also wholeheartedly called upon Members of different political parties to work together with the Government and strive to resolve differences, foster mutual trust and build a better Hong Kong. The CE made it clear that all politically appointed officials must have more interaction with LegCo Members, listen to Members' views seriously, and engage in lobbying efforts instead of leaving this work to others.
Mr President, the current-term Government looks forward to having closer communication and interaction with Members on the basis of mutual trust which we will actively build with LegCo, in order to explain our policy thinking to secure Members' support for Government policies. We look forward to receiving a positive response from Members in our joint efforts in building a better Hong Kong.
Thank you, President.
Ends/Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Issued at HKT 12:37