"The principle of 'One Country, Two Systems' as enshrined in the Basic Law has been fully implemented since reunification. This applies to all systems in Hong Kong, including the economic and political systems," a Government spokesman made these remarks today (July 2) in response to media enquiries concerning a letter from the Chairman of the Congressional Committee on International Relations of the United States to the Chief Executive (CE), attaching a resolution regarding Hong Kong to be voted on by the House of Representatives.
"Since reunification, the Central Authorities have been firmly committed to upholding the principle of 'One Country, Two Systems'. There is no erosion whatsoever of Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy.
"Over the last seven years, with the strong support of the Central Authorities, we have successfully turned 'One Country, Two Systems' into an everyday reality. The economic, trade, legal and political systems in Hong Kong are different from those of the Mainland. This will remain the case as we move forward," he said.
"Our freedoms - of the press, expression, assembly, religion and many others - remain strong and are deeply rooted in the rule of law," he added.
"The mass media in Hong Kong remain vibrant and vocal. Freedom of expression is very much alive in Hong Kong. Officials of the HKSAR Government continue to be subject to public scrutiny. They respond to press enquiries and appear on the programmes of the electronic media to account for Government's decisions and actions," he said.
"Hong Kong people continue to enjoy religious freedom fully. All the main religions are practised in the territory," the spokesman said.
The fundamental rights and freedoms of Hong Kong are constitutionally protected through Chapter III of the Basic Law. All our laws must be consistent with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Bill of Rights. On Article 23 of the Basic Law, the spokesman said, "In view of the need to secure public support and understanding, there will be full and thorough public consultation before the legislative process is re-initiated."
On constitutional development, the spokesman reiterated that the HKSAR Government attached great importance to the work in this area. The Government would actively promote constitutional development in Hong Kong on the basis of "One Country, Two Systems" and the Basic Law.
"Following the decision of the Standing Committee of National People's Congress (NPCSC) in April, there is still plenty of room for us to contemplate changes to improve the methods for electing the CE in 2007 and for forming the Legislative Council (LegCo) in 2008," he said.
The Constitutional Development Task Force chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration is gathering views and specific proposals from individuals and organisations in the community on the areas which might be considered for amendment in respect of the methods for electing the CE in 2007 and for forming the LegCo in 2008.
The Task Force will then consolidate the views received for further public consultation in the autumn. The spokesman stressed that the people of Hong Kong would continue to have an important role to play in Hong Kong's constitutional development.
"In recent weeks, there are positive signs that different sectors of the community are willing to engage in rational dialogue and to accommodate other points of view. We will endeavour to leverage on this pragmatism to find common ground and build consensus as we take forward our democratisation process according to the Basic Law," he said.
The spokesman added, "By constitutional design, the Central Authorities have constitutional roles and responsibilities in overseeing Hong Kong's constitutional development.
"For any changes to be made to the electoral methods beyond 2007, the support of three parties is required. According to the Basic Law Annexes, any amendment has to be supported by two-thirds majority of LegCo Members and the CE, and be reported to the NPCSC for approval or for the record, as the case may be."
The spokesman noted that according to the Joint Declaration (JD), the CE would be appointed by the Central People's Government on the basis of the results of elections or consultations to be held locally, and the LegCo would be constituted by elections.
"These JD provisions have already been fulfilled. The ultimate aim of universal suffrage is not stipulated in the JD, but is provided for as part of the Basic Law.
"As the CE said yesterday, we will take forward constitutional development with the ultimate aim of universal suffrage in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress, the provisions of the Basic Law and the NPCSC's interpretation and decision," the spokesman said.
Ends/Friday, July 2, 2004