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Response to European Parliament Report on Hong Kong

In response to media enquiries on the European Parliament Report on Hong Kong which was discussed at the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy of the European Parliament yesterday (March 25), a Government spokesman said today (March 26), "We note the report's observation that in economic and trade terms, HKSAR is ideally suited as a strategic link between Europe and Asia."

"We welcome the call on the European Commission to explore possible areas for co-operation between the European Union and the HKSAR and to provide the necessary resources to facilitate this," the spokesman said.

The Report contains comments and observations on a range of issues, including Article 23 of the Basic Law, the accountability system, constitutional development, rule of law, human rights, and Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement with the Mainland.

On the implementation of Article 23 of the Basic Law, the spokesman said that the relevant proposals have been drawn up having regard to common law principles and national security laws in other jurisdictions. The proposals are fully in line with the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

In response to comments on the accountability system, the spokesman said, "The powers and functions of the Chief Executive are clearly set out in the Basic Law: these have not been increased or reduced as a result of implementation of the accountability system."

"The accountability system has been devised within the framework provided for in the Basic Law. The introduction of the accountability system has brought the system in Hong Kong closer to that in other civilised jurisdictions," he said.

"There is now a clearly identified political leadership at the top supported by a meritocratic and politically neutral civil service. Civil servants will remain in service irrespective of any change of political leadership at the top. Contrary to suggestions of politicising the civil service, the introduction of the accountability system and the establishment of the permanent secretary positions actually strengthen the foundation of a permanent and professional civil service and preserve the integrity of the civil service system, which forms part of Hong Kong's cherished institutions," he said.

As regards constitutional development post-2007, the spokesman pointed out that the Basic Law provides that the ultimate aim is the election of the Chief Executive and of all LegCo members by universal suffrage.

"Hong Kong will need to chart its own way forward in the light of the actual situation in Hong Kong and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The Government will continue to listen to the views of different sectors of the community. Decisions will be made only after a wide public consultation," the spokesman said.

The rule of law is well and alive in Hong Kong. "The HKSAR courts exercise judicial power independently, free from any interference. The power of final adjudication is vested in the Court of Final Appeal. The power of interpreting the Basic Law, as stipulated in the Basic Law, is vested in the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress."

The spokesman added, "Prominent and highly respected judges from other common law jurisdictions continue to sit on the Court of Final Appeal. This testifies to international confidence in the continuation of judicial independence in Hong Kong."

On the right of abode court cases, the spokesman said that the Government acted strictly in accordance with the law. "Further, by the Government's concession policy, several thousand claimants have been allowed to benefit from the decision of the Court of Final Appeal in January 1999," he said.

On the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement with Mainland China, the Government spokesman emphasised that relevant arrangements would be compatible with WTO rules.

End/Wednesday, March 26, 2003