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Response to US Report on Human Rights

Upon media enquiries, a Government spokesman responded today (March 9) to comments in the US Country Report on Human Rights relating to Hong Kong’s constitutional development.

The spokesman said that both the Central Authorities and the Government were fully committed to promoting constitutional development in accordance with the Basic Law, with a view to achieving the ultimate aim of universal suffrage.

"The proposed package for the electoral methods for 2007/08 put forth by the Government in October last year would have greatly enhanced the democratic representation in the two electoral methods, and brought significant progress to Hong Kong's constitutional development. It is regrettable that the package, which was supported by the majority of the public and more than half of the Legislative Council Members, was not endorsed by a two-thirds majority of all Legislative Council Members as required in Annexes I and II of the Basic Law," the spokesman said.

The spokesman added that the Government was fully alive to the public’s aspirations for universal suffrage.

"In November last year, the Chief Executive initiated the discussion on formulating a roadmap for universal suffrage through the Commission on Strategic Development," he said.

"The Commission aims to draw conclusions on the discussions by early 2007 and hope that this will provide a basis for us to commence our next phase of work," he noted.

On interpretation of the Basic Law, the spokesman emphasised that in accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) had the power to interpret the Basic Law.

"The NPCSC’s power to interpret the Basic Law is in general and unqualified terms. This principle is fully acknowledged and respected in Hong Kong and by its courts.

"The exercise of that power by the NPCSC, therefore, has not, and could not have, in any way affected the independence of the Judiciary, the rule of law or, generally, Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy," the spokesman said.

The spokesman further noted that the political structure in Hong Kong was an executive-led system headed by the Chief Executive.

"The respective powers and responsibilities of the executive authorities and the legislature are clearly prescribed in the Basic Law. The relationship between the executive authorities and the legislature is one of mutual regulation and coordination."

The spokesman added that bills and budgets put forth by the Government had to be passed by the Legislative Council before they could be implemented.

Ends/Thursday, March 9, 2006