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LCQ6: Prohibiting acts of secession

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Priscilla Leung and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Patrick Nip, in the Legislative Council today (July 12):


     Article 1 of the Basic Law (BL) stipulates that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) is an inalienable part of the People's Republic of China (PRC).  Last month, three Members of this Council attended in Taiwan the founding ceremony of a local political organisation "Taiwan Congressional Hong Kong Caucus" (the Caucus), and signed a cooperation document with the Caucus.  It has been reported that the Caucus, established by some advocates of "Taiwan Independence" and funded by the Taiwanese Government, has been engaging in activities to split up China.  It has also been reported that the purpose of establishing the Caucus is to share experience in democratic movements with Hong Kong, make statements on major political events in Hong Kong, and strive to promote the amendment of the Act Governing Relations with Hong Kong and Macau by Taiwan's Legislative Yuan so that people from Hong Kong and Macau will have a formal channel to seek political asylum in Taiwan.  There are comments that the acts of the aforesaid three Members allegedly bore an element of collusion with secession forces and were therefore in violation of BL.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) to prevent anyone from engaging in acts of secession and endangering national security deliberately or due to a lack of understanding of the relevant provisions of BL, whether the Government will promulgate policies and guidelines to enhance the understanding of the national system, the Constitution of PRC and BL of HKSAR among various government departments and members of the public, so as to prevent anyone from engaging in acts of secession and endangering national security in HKSAR; and

(2)  as some members of the public have pointed out that some Hong Kong people currently have a weak awareness of their obligation to safeguard national security, whether the Government will consider taking measures to specifically address this situation by enhancing communications, education and promotion targeting various sectors of society, to enable Hong Kong people to understand their obligation to safeguard national security, with a view to creating a favourable environment to facilitate enacting legislation on protecting national security in HKSAR; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that? 



     Our consolidated reply to the Dr Hon Leung's question, after consulting the relevant bureaux, is as follows:

     The Preamble of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (the Basic Law) unequivocally states that "[u]pholding national unity and territorial integrity, maintaining the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, and taking account of its history and realities, the People's Republic of China has decided that upon China's resumption of the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong, a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will be established in accordance with the provisions of Article 31 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China."

     The Basic Law is the constitutional document of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and also a national law of the country.  Hong Kong people should have a comprehensive and accurate understanding of the Basic Law.  Chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration, the Basic Law Promotion Steering Committee (the Steering Committee) is responsible for steering the overall programme and strategy for promoting the Basic Law as well as coordinating the efforts of Government departments and various sectors in the society in taking forward the promotion work.  There are five working groups under the Steering Committee, namely the Working Group on Local Community, the Working Group on Teachers and Students, the Working Group on Civil Servants, the Working Group on Industrial, Commercial and Professional Sectors, and the Working Group on Overseas Community, to promote the Basic Law to different target groups.  These working groups are respectively supported by the Home Affairs Bureau, the Education Bureau, the Civil Service Bureau, the Trade and Industry Department and the Information Services Department in terms of secretariat services as well as assistance in planning and organising different types of activities to proactively promote the Basic Law to their responsible sectors.

     There is a wide variety of activities in promoting the Basic Law, with a view to effectively reaching out to the target groups of different sectors.  These activities include thematic seminars, quiz and debate competitions, roving exhibitions, brochure publication, online games and talks or seminars.  Target groups of different sectors can gain a general or in-depth understanding of the Basic Law according to their needs.  We also make use of different media, including TV and Radio Announcements of Public Interest, radio quiz programmes, mobile resource centre, internet and smartphone applications, to promote the Basic Law to members of the public.  In addition, the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau provides sponsorship for non-government organisations and community organisations through the "Basic Law Promotion Sponsorship Scheme" to organise different forms of Basic Law promotion activities at the district level to reach a wider Hong Kong audience.  In the next five years, the current-term Government will continue to strengthen the work in this aspect.  The Chief Executive has stated in her election manifesto that she hopes that future young people in Hong Kong can become a new generation equipped with a sense of national identity, love for Hong Kong and international perspectives.

     On the issue of forestalling secession and endangerment of national security, it has already been clearly stated upfront in Article 1 of the Basic Law that "[t]he Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is an inalienable part of the People's Republic of China."  Article 12 of the Basic Law stipulates that "[t]he Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be a local administrative region of the People's Republic of China, which shall enjoy a high degree of autonomy and come directly under the Central People's Government."  According to Article 23 of the Basic Law, "[t]he Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People's Government, or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies."

     As such, the Basic Law has already prescribed clearly that the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR Government) has the responsibility to safeguard our national sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as the responsibility to enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of secession in accordance with the Basic Law.  I also believe that Hong Kong people will not agree with any words and deeds of secession.  In fact, the Chief Executive has clearly stated in her election manifesto that it is a constitutional responsibility of the HKSAR Government to enact legislation to safeguard our national security.  Moreover, the world has become complicated and uncertain, hence, increasing the importance to legislate for national security here in Hong Kong.  Nonetheless, the Chief Executive has also pointed out that past experience has shown that this subject is highly controversial and can easily cause social disturbance.  For this reason, the current-term Government has to weigh the pros and cons and act cautiously to try and create the right social conditions for legislation, such that the Hong Kong community may deal with this controversial subject in a constructive manner. 

     Mr President, the Chief Executive has pledged a new style of governance to rebuild a harmonious society, improve the relationship between the executive and the legislature, and restore public confidence in the Government.  We hope that there will be more proactive and positive communication and interaction on different issues to build up a better social atmosphere.  We believe that when people’s confidence in the Government is restored and mutual trust among members of the public is enhanced, the Hong Kong community will once again be united, harmonious and inclusive to accommodate different opinions.  At that time, we will have the right conditions to embark on a rational discussion on enacting legislation for safeguarding national security and other controversial issues, build consensus in the community, and achieve a successful outcome.

     Thank you, President.

Ends/Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:01