|LC: Speech by Acting Secretary for Constitutional Affairs
Following is the speech by the Acting Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Clement Mak, in respect of the resolution moved by the Hon Leung Yiu-chung for amending Article 45 and Annex I of the Basic Law in the Legislative Council today (July 4).
This is the second time that the Hon Leung Yiu-chung has claimed to move a resolution for amending the Basic Law in accordance with Article 159 of the Basic Law since he last claimed to move a resolution in January 2000. I am duty bound to reiterate the position of the Administration on the nature of this resolution. I will also elaborate on the views of the Administration on the substance of the resolution.
Item 1 of Article 159 of the Basic Law provides that the power of amendment of the Basic Law shall be vested in the National People's Congress. Item 2 provides that the power to propose bills for amendments to the Basic Law shall be vested in the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the State Council and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Amendment bills from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be submitted to the National People's Congress by the delegation of the Region to the National People's Congress after obtaining the consent of two-thirds of the deputies of the Region to the National People's Congress, two-thirds of all the members of the Legislative Council of the Region, and the Chief Executive of the Region. The Basic Law however does not provide for a specific mechanism for amending the Basic Law.
The Basic Law is the constitutional document of the HKSAR. Amending the Basic Law is a matter of great importance, and so is putting in place a mechanism for amending the Basic Law. These matters need to be handled with care.
In respect of the establishment of the mechanism for amending the Basic Law, both the Administration and the Legislative Council Panel on Constitutional Affairs have done a lot of work in various areas. The Panel has also held two public hearings.
Members would appreciate that the establishment of the mechanism for amending the Basic Law involves issues that relate to the Legislative Council, the HKSAR deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chief Executive which are inter-related. These are not issues that can be unilaterally resolved on our own. We need to discuss these issues fully with the various parties concerned.
As regards the issues involving the Central Authorities, it is not possible for us to resolve the issues on our own. We must consult the Central Authorities beforehand. For example, how should the local NPC deputies discharge their duties under Article 159? We need to know whether the General Office of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress would promulgate more detailed guidelines for the local NPC deputies to discharge their duties under Article 159 of the Basic Law, or whether the local NPC deputies would make their own rules of procedures in this regard. Under our existing procedures, the SAR Government will study and analyse the matter, and conduct extensive consultations; discuss with the Legislative Council and the Central Authorities; and then put forward proposed options. We think that this is a more appropriate way of dealing with the matter. The SAR Government has worked in conjunction with the Legislative Council and, at the same time, discussed the matter with the Central Government since early 1999.
We can understand certain Members' wish that the mechanism for amending the Basic Law be established by the SAR Government as early as possible. We are now in the process of consulting the Central Authorities. The view of the Central Government is that the issue of establishing the mechanism for amending the Basic Law is a matter of importance and requires careful consideration. The Central Government has indicated that they would study the matter and discuss it with the NPC as many issues involve arrangements relating to the NPC. The SAR Government will continue to follow up the matter.
When the Hon Member claimed in January last year that he proposed a resolution in accordance with Article 159 of the Basic Law, we had stated clearly the position of the Administration. Madam President, I would like to reiterate the position of the Administration on the resolution, that is, in the absence of a mechanism agreed to by all parties concerned at this stage, the Hon Member's resolution can only be regarded as his own proposal. From the constitutional point of view, the resolution is premature. It cannot be regarded as a proper way to set in train the procedure for amending the Basic Law.
Madam President, I will now elaborate on the views of the Administration on the substance of the resolution.
There are express provisions in the Basic Law on the method as well as the relevant principles for the selection of the Chief Executive. Article 45 of the Basic Law provides that the Chief Executive of the HKSAR shall be selected by election or through consultations held locally and be appointed by the Central People's Government. The method for selecting the Chief Executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the HKSAR and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.
There are specific provisions in Annex I to the Basic Law on the method for the selection of the Chief Executive. The Chief Executive shall be elected by a broadly representative Election Committee in accordance with the Basic Law and appointed by the Central People's Government. If there is a need to amend the method for selecting the Chief Executives for the terms subsequent to the year 2007, such amendments must be made with the endorsement of a two-thirds majority of all the members of the Legislative Council and consent of the Chief Executive, and they shall be reported to the Standing Committee of the NPC for approval.
Political development in the HKSAR is an important matter that has a bearing on the society. As the Chief Executive pointed out in his Policy Address last year, "our political structure outlined in the Basic Law is the manifestation of a spirit which encompasses respect for history and respect for reality. It establishes the principle of gradual and orderly progress and provides the SAR with ten years during which we can strengthen the foundation of our political structure and accumulate experience through the process of implementation before taking the next steps. Over the past three years, there have been different voices in the community: some favour expediting political references, while others are concerned that Hong Kong's political environment may be changing too rapidly. Constitutional development is obviously a most important subject. It encompasses a wide spectrum of issues. It will have a fundamental bearing on society as a whole. We need to allow for a period of gestation. We also need to create the appropriate conditions and environment, and to enable views to mature through implementation."
We are of the view that it is not an appropriate time now to discuss any change in the method for the selection of the Chief Executive. Our urgent task at hand is to secure the passage of the "Chief Executive Election Bill" by the Legislation Council in order to put in place local legislation as the basis for the Chief Executive Election to be held next year.
The Second Chief Executive Election will be held in the end of March 2002, just nine months from now. We hope that the "Chief Executive Election Bill" can be passed by the Legislative Council on 11 July before the LegCo recess. In view of the urgency of the matter, once the principal legislation is passed, we will seek to complete the drafting of a number of subsidiary legislation in order to put in place detailed arrangements relating to the Chief Executive Election.
In reviewing the political system of the HKSAR in the future, we must have regard to the actual situation of the HKSAR and follow the principle of gradual and orderly progress under Article 45 and Annex I of the Basic Law. We would certainly provide ample opportunities for the public to express their views. We hope that though extensive discussions, the public would express mature views on the future development of the political structure of the HKSAR and come to a consensus.
In the absence of an appropriate mechanism agreed to by all parties concerned, the Hon Member claimed once again today that he put on the agenda a resolution for amending the Basic Law in accordance with Article 159 of the Basic Law. The Legislative Council is asked to vote on the resolution, the contents of which have not been subject to extensive consultation and careful examination. This is definitely not appropriate.
Madam President, in view of the various reasons and considerations that I put forth just now, the Administration objects to the resolution moved by the Hon Member today.
End/Wednesday, July 4, 2001