LCQ5: Power of amendment of Basic Law and power to propose bills for amendments
Following is a question by Hon Leung Yiu-chung and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (November 9):
While Article 159 of the Basic Law provides for the power of amendment of the Basic Law and the power to propose bills for such amendments, it does not clearly set out a specific amendment mechanism. Although the Government said in July 2001 that it would study, analyse and conduct extensive consultations on the matter, discuss with the Legislative Council ("LegCo") and the Central Authorities, and then put forward the proposals, no specific proposal has been presented so far. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the details and progress of the study, analysis and consultations;
(b) whether it will arrange for LegCo to have exchanges and discussions with the National People's Congress and the relevant authorities of the Central Government regarding this matter; if so, of the details of the arrangements; if not, the reasons for that; and
(c) how it will ensure that the wishes of the Hong Kong people will be given due consideration and respect, and the principles of "one country, two systems" and "a high degree of autonomy" will be given effect in the formulation of such a mechanism?
On the first part of the question raised by the Hon Leung Yiu-chung, we have continued to study issues relating to Article 159 of the Basic Law (BL 159) and communicate with the relevant departments of the Central Authorities in the past few years. We will brief the Legislative Council (LegCo) Panel on Constitutional Affairs when we are in a position to do so.
As regards the second part of the question, we are of the view that at this stage there is no need to arrange for LegCo to have exchanges and discussions with the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the relevant departments of the Central Authorities on issues relating to BL 159, as we have relayed to the relevant departments of the Central Authorities in the past the views and concerns of Members expressed on this subject matter. If Members have any further comments on the issues, we are prepared to reflect them to the relevant departments of the Central Authorities.
As for the third part of the question, the various requirements prescribed in BL 159 are themselves built-in safeguards to ensure that in the event that amendments are required to be made to the Basic Law, the views of the people in Hong Kong will be considered and the principles of "One Country, Two Systems" and " High Degree of Autonomy" realised.
The provision stipulates that before a bill for amendments to the Basic Law proposed by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) is submitted to the NPC for consideration, the consent of two-thirds of the NPC deputies of the Region, two-thirds of all the LegCo members and the Chief Executive shall be obtained. The provision further provides that before an amendment bill is put on the agenda of the NPC, the Committee for the Basic Law of the HKSAR shall study it and submit its views. In discharging their constitutional obligations under BL 159, we trust that the above four relevant parties will consider carefully the views of the Hong Kong community. Furthermore, making amendments to the Basic Law is an important constitutional issue for Hong Kong. Naturally, there will be a lot of discussions within the local community and the SAR Government will in no doubt relay the full spectrum of views to the NPC and the relevant departments of the Central Authorities.
BL 159 stipulates that no amendment to the Basic Law shall contravene the established basic policies of the People’s Republic of China regarding Hong Kong. In accordance with the preamble and general principles set out in the Basic Law, the established basic policies of the Central Authorities regarding Hong Kong include the following: “One Country, Two Systems” shall be implemented in the HKSAR; the socialist system and policies shall not be practised in Hong Kong; the HKSAR enjoys a high degree of autonomy under authorisation; and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged. Any amendments to the Basic Law that are in contravention with the above established basic policies cannot be made. These requirements ensure that the country’s basic policies regarding Hong Kong will not be altered as a result of any amendments made to the Basic Law, thereby preserving the integrity of “One Country, Two Systems” and “High Degree of Autonomy”.
Ends/Wednesday, November 9, 2005