|SCA on HK's core values after LegCo motion debate
Following is the transcript (English only) of a stand-up briefing by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, after attending a Member's motion debate in the Legislative Council tonight (June 9):
Reporter: You gave a defence on core values, but we hear a lot of legislators asking for core values. We see ads from academics etc. It seems that there are some sort of disconnect going out between you saying that they will be defended and people in the community who say that they are not.
SCA: The core values which are important to Hong Kong include freedom of speech, human rights, rule of law and pursuit of democracy. On all these fronts, the HKSAR Government has worked on them for years, has preserved and maintained these systems for years. And the Basic Law as our constitutional document provides the constitutional basis for which these values can be defended.
Reporter: If people don't feel that they are being defended - that's the point - why is there this disconnect?
SCA: They can see that everyday, despite the departure of the three radio hosts, there are new radio hosts championing these programmes. And officials of the government continue to respond to these questions that they put to us everyday. And we continue to put forth the government positions on all sorts of policies.
Reporter: The fact that they were replaced does not change the fact that three people had to go and they were under extreme circumstances.
SCA: In respect of all those three cases, the Police have taken proactive action. We have interviewed all parties who can provide useful information and we pursued any thread of evidence that there might be improper behaviour.
Reporter: Tonight there was this split voting system and because of this split voting system, the motion lost but actually there was a majority of votes numerically in favour - 22 to 20. Would you say that there is any kind of messages here at all for the government?
SCA: I think Hong Kong is a free and open society. We have pluralistic opinions expressed in this Council and outside this Council everyday. We encourage the people of Hong Kong to continue to express their views to us on constitutional reform or other issues through existing channels. We respect the views of the people of Hong Kong, and we want to bring the electoral systems in Hong Kong closer to the ultimate aim of universal suffrage.
Reporter: The fact is there is fear. People are afraid whether that is the issue of telephones in the voting booths, whether there are people in the Mainland being told, family members should vote in a particular way. Whatever the issue is, people feel that the core values which include independence of mind are being threatened. That's what we need to address, isn't it?
SCA: The government and the people of Hong Kong should take affirmative action to protect from any threat to freedoms or the rule of law. We encourage all individuals who feel that they are being threatened to cast their votes in a particular way or to affect their voting behaviour to report to the ICAC. We'll deal with these cases vigilantly regardless of the background of suspects. We will deal with them.
Reporter: Do you think the government was tardy or insufficient in its response to a number of these threats as they come including for example the talk-show hosts?
SCA: We have acted proactively and vigilantly. So far, we have not identified any substantial case which indicates that the freedom of speech is being eroded.
Reporter: But even people like Lau Nai-keung has come forward and said the government has just been tardy and hesitant to say what it should say?
SCA: Our actions prove louder than words. Hong Kong's freedom of speech has been defended all these years, and we will continue to do so.
Ends/Wednesday, June 9, 2004