LCQ4: Constitutional development in Hong Kong
Following is a question by the Hon Michael Mak and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (February 18):
On December 3 last year, the State President told the Chief Executive (CE) during the latter's duty visit in Beijing that he believed that the Hong Kong community could reach a broad consensus on constitutional development. During his visit to Hong Kong in the middle of last month, one Mainland legal scholar remarked that the Central Authorities would definitely exercise to the end their authority on Hong Kong's constitutional development. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether it has assessed if the President's comments that he believed the Hong Kong community could reach a broad consensus on constitutional development would contradict the scholar's comments that the Central Authorities would exercise their authority to the end on Hong Kong's constitutional development; if it has, of the assessment results; and
(b) of its efforts to facilitate the Hong Kong community to reach a broad consensus on constitutional development, for instance, whether it will invite officials of the Central Government to visit Hong Kong to exchange views with various sectors directly?
Regarding the first part of the question, in accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), the Central Authorities have powers and responsibilities to oversee the important issue of constitutional development. The Central Authorities and the SAR Government will address the issue of constitutional development in accordance with the Basic Law. To us, the opinions expressed by the Mainland legal experts have reference value. The question of whether there is any contradiction does not arise.
Regarding the second part of the question, the Constitutional Development Task Force, led by the Chief Secretary for Administration with the Secretary for Justice and myself as members, issued a paper to the Legislative Council (LegCo) Panel on Constitutional Affairs on January 14 this year, and outlined therein three main areas of issues of principles in the Basic Law, which are:
First, issues on principles relating to the relationship between the Central Authorities and the SAR;
Second, constitutional development shall be specified in the light of the "actual situation" of the HKSAR and in accordance with the principle of "gradual and orderly progress"; and
Third, the principles of "giving consideration to the interests of all sectors of society" and "facilitating the development of the capitalist economy" as mentioned by Mr Ji Pengfei in 1990.
Our paper also set out five questions on legislative process.
Up to now, the Task Force has conducted 21 sessions to meet with various organisations and individuals from different sectors of the community, including six political parties and political groups, five politically non-affiliated LegCo Members, three chambers of commerce, eight advocacy groups, Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of District Councils, and 19 academics, commentators and individuals. We are arranging to meet more than 30 organisations and individuals between now and early March.
In order to facilitate wider discussion of the issues on principles and legislative process in the Basic Law by the Hong Kong community, the Task Force will post the issues, in the form of questions, onto the website set up by the Task Force, so that the public and different organisations can express their views through this channel.
Furthermore, we will continue to put reports to the LegCo Panel on Constitutional Affairs on the progress of work of the Task Force and listen to Members' views.
We hope that the Hong Kong community will discuss these issues on principles and legislative process rationally, consider the matter thoroughly and strive for consensus, as further work on constitutional development will need to build upon these issues on principles and legislative process.
Ends/Wednesday, February 18, 2004