The following is the transcript of the English portion of the Spokesman's Session given by the Information Coordinator, Mr Stephen Lam, today (April 12):
Mr Lam : The main purposes of the Chief Executive's visit to North America were twofold. Firstly, to bring leaders in Canada and the United States up to date on the successful implementation of 'One Country, Two Systems" in Hong Kong. Secondly, to put the Hong Kong case strongly for the approval of Permanent Normal Trade Relation status for China by the US Congress. During his visit, the Chief Executive had meetings with the Canadian Prime Minister, the US President, and senior officials of both governments. While in Washington, he met with over 25 Senators and Congressmen. Mr Tung also gave four keynote addresses to bring government and business leaders up to date on developments in Hong Kong. He also had many other meetings with leaders in both countries.
In overall terms, we can refer to four achievements during this visit:
First and foremost, the Chief Executive has been able to put forth, to the US President and US Congress, a strong case for approving Permanent Normal Trade Relation status for China. Our argument was that this will be beneficial to the United States, to China and to Hong Kong. We believe we have made some progress with the US Congress but more hard work is necessary in the next two months.
Secondly, from his meetings with the US President, Canadian Prime Minister and meetings with leaders in both countries, it is very clear that both the United States and Canada value very highly their economic and trade relations with Hong Kong. Our position as a leading financial and business centre in Asia is widely appreciated and recognised. We should continue to build on this position of strength in years to come.
Thirdly, the Chief Executive had the opportunity to see the efforts made both by Toronto and Los Angeles in dealing with environmental protection. The HKSAR Government are firmly committed to improving the environment in Hong Kong and the experience of these two cities is very valuable to us.
Fourthly, the visit to Disney on Monday. The Chief Executive found it very useful and after the visit we find it even more reassuring and we are more confident that Hong Kong Disneyland's development will strengthen the Hong Kong economy, will bring our tourism to world-class standards. This will also increase employment opportunities for the Hong Kong work force.
Now, some questions. I will give you the first bite of the cherry.
Reporter: [Question in Cantonese about a Cable TV interview with Taiwan leaders and status, and asking where the line should be drawn for reporters].
Mr Lam: [Replying also in English]. The HKSAR Government supports reunification of the country according to the 'One China Principle' and 'One Country, Two Systems'. We believe that this view is shared commonly by the people of Hong Kong. The Basic Law provides that Hong Kong residents have the right, have the freedom of speech, of the press and of publication. The freedom of the media to report on current affairs in accordance with the laws of Hong Kong is protected by the Basic Law. As for legislation on Basic Law Article 23, we do not have a set timetable and we shall first conduct a public consultation on this matter.
RTHK (Terry Nealon): Yes, can I ask about something that happened during the US trip? During your conversations with Disney, did the chairman, Mr Eisner, voice concerns about the levels of pollution in Hong Kong - and that came only a matter of days after a company moved its convention away from Hong Kong because of pollution worries - I'd like to ask:
a) is there any element in our agreement which would allow Disney to pull out of the Hong Kong project if pollution worsens, and
b) does the Chief Executive think it's now time to do something really urgent to tackle this problem?
Mr Lam: I'm glad you raised the question, Terry. I'll restate our position, taking benefit, advantage of your question. Actually, during the Chief Executive's meeting with the chairman of Walt Disney, Mr Tung and Mr Eisner both expressed absolute confidence in the success of the Hong Kong Disneyland project. They both agreed that the Disneyland project will benefit Hong Kong's tourism and Walt Disney's business in Asia. Walt Disney is fully committed to the Hong Kong Disneyland project. The only specific point which they made was the importance of facilitating the entry to Hong Kong of visitors from the Mainland. And on this point, we of course reassured them that we shall continue to work with our Mainland colleagues to deal with this. As for the question of air pollution in Hong Kong, it was actually the Chief Executive who took the initiative to brief Disney colleagues on the steps which we are taking to bring Hong Kong's air quality up to the standards of New York and London by the year 2005. The chairman of Walt Disney, and all his colleagues, welcomed our initiatives on this front. They were very satisfied with our approach, and they much look forward to working together with the government to bring Hong Kong Disneyland to successful fruition.
RTHK (Terry Nealon): If the CE is concerned that someone of the calibre of Christine Loh, and I know you personally hold her in high regard, that she should feel compelled to turn her back on the Legislative Council in order to make progress, [...inaudible...]
Mr Lam: Well, the Chief Executive is aware that the Honourable Christine Loh has decided not to seek re-election this coming September. As the Chief Executive, the Acting Chief Executive, said yesterday, we respect her decision but we cannot accept the reasoning behind it. The Special Administrative Region Government has acted entirely in accordance with the Basic Law in making ourselves accountable to the Legislative Council. And the Basic Law has set a timetable for the introduction of direct elections. We shall follow the Basic Law timetable in this regard. Miss Loh has referred to her interest in a variety of policy areas, for example, the environment. Her views, interest and contributions are appreciated, but I should also point out that Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa took the initiative to make the environment a major priority area, a major area of work, in his 1999 Policy Address. We took this initiative on our own and are pursuing this with vigour.
End/Wednesday, April 12, 2000