Following is the speech by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Donald Tsang, on the Proposed Motion on the Award of Honours by the Honours Committee in the Legislative Council today (October 31) (Translation):
I have listened carefully to the views and comments made by Members, particularly those who spoke in favour of the motion. I urge Members to carefully consider a fundamental issue before casting their votes later - what purposes could be achieved or indeed what problems would be resolved and what repercussions would be created by the motion moved by the Panel on Home Affairs concerning the honour award to Mr Yeung Kwong.
There is no question that the motion, if carried, will carry far-reaching repercussions. Before I explain these repercussions, let me brief Members on the nomination procedures and selection criteria under the existing honours and awards system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
We have adopted our own honours system after the Handover to give recognition to persons who have made outstanding contribution to Hong Kong, who have rendered distinguished and devoted community or public service to Hong Kong, or who have personally excelled in their respective fields. Nominations for honours and awards are normally made by policy bureaux and departments. Those nominations from non-governmental organizations and the general public will be referred to the relevant bureaux and departments for processing.
Nominations are considered by an Honours Committee to ensure that recommendations are consistent and in line with the selection criteria. The Committee is chaired by me and comprises the Financial Secretary, Executive Council Members, eminent community leaders and the Chairman of the Public Service Commission.
After detailed deliberation, the Honours Committee submits its recommendations to the Chief Executive for consideration and approval, enclosing a full list of nominees, including those not recommended by the Committee. The Honours list is announced on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day each year.
My colleagues have already explained the aforesaid criteria and procedures to the Panel on Home Affairs at its meeting on July 10 this year. We have also made it clear that, in order to uphold the integrity of the system, the Administration cannot and should not make any comment on individual cases.
We have also pointed out that the Chief Executive has the authority to add or remove any names to and from the list recommended by the Honours Committee. The prerequisite is that honours are only awarded in accordance with the prescribed conditions and criteria under the honours system. This practice is the same as that before the Handover. As such, there is no question of the Chief Executive bypassing the Honours Committee. Furthermore, the Administration has already explained the justifications for each award at the announcement of the Honours List in July this year.
It is obvious that even if the motion were carried, and that the Panel on Home Affairs is authorized to have access to Honours Committee papers, the move will not serve any meaningful purpose. Worse still, once such a precedent is set for making public papers and documents held by the Honours Committee, it will gravely hamper the candid exchange of views in the Committee which is very important for these decisions. Some Members of the Honours Committee may feel inhibited from putting forth their fair but pointed comments on individual nominations out of a concern that their comments on individuals or proposed nominations will be publicized. This will seriously impair the effective operation of the Committee in future.
Madam President, while this Council may invoke the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance and authorize the Panel on Home Affairs to order attendance of witnesses, examine witnesses and require witnesses to produce documents, I hope Members would consider the matter from a broader perspective, and in the overall interests of Hong Kong. I urge Members to exercise restraint and not to require the Administration to disclose the details of the consideration of the Honours Committee, lest our well-established honours system would be irretrievably damaged.
Thank you President.
End/Wednesday, October 31, 2001