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LCQ4: Official elucidation on the provisions of the Basic Law and related concepts
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     Following is a question by the Hon Claudia Mo and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (January 7):

Question:

     The "Hong Kong Fact Sheet" ("Fact Sheet") series published by the Information Services Department provides information on various aspects of Hong Kong on a topical basis. The Fact Sheet on the topic of the Basic Law, as published in August 2013, contained the following sentence: the Basic Law "enshrines within a legal document the important concepts of 'one country, two systems', 'a high degree of autonomy' and 'Hong Kong People ruling Hong Kong'", in which "Hong Kong People ruling Hong Kong" was the English rendition of "Hv". However, in the updated version of December 2014 of this Fact Sheet, the English rendition of "Hv" has been changed to "Hong Kong People administering Hong Kong", i.e. the word "ruling" has been replaced by the word "administering". Moreover, among the three concepts listed in that sentence, "a high degree of autonomy" has been relegated from the second place to the third place. There are comments that the word "administering" implies that the Government of the Special Administrative Region is merely responsible for implementing the instructions handed down by the Central People's Government and, therefore, the aforesaid changes were made to deliberately play down the importance of "a high degree of autonomy" in Hong Kong's constitutional system. Regarding the official elucidation on the provisions of the Basic Law and related concepts, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the justifications for the authorities making the aforesaid changes to the Fact Sheet; the procedures that the authorities are required to follow in amending the official elucidation relating to the contents of the Basic Law, as well as the rank of the officials who make the relevant decisions; whether the authorities have assessed the reaction of members of the public to the aforesaid changes;

(2) whether the authorities last year amended, apart from the aforesaid Fact Sheet, the elucidation on the concepts of "one country, two systems", "a high degree of autonomy", "Hong Kong People ruling Hong Kong", etc. in any other official documents, publications or on government web sites; and

(3) why it is that in the printed version of the aforesaid Fact Sheet, only Article 28(1) of the Basic Law (i.e. "The freedom of the person of Hong Kong residents shall be inviolable") is quoted whereas in the electronic version of the Fact Sheet on the web site of the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, Article 28 is quoted in full, i.e. apart from Article 28(1), Article 28(2) (which is "No Hong Kong resident shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful arrest, detention or imprisonment. Arbitrary or unlawful search of the body of any resident or deprivation or restriction of the freedom of the person shall be prohibited. Torture of any resident or arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of the life of any resident shall be prohibited") is also quoted; apart from the printed version of the aforesaid Fact Sheet, whether the authorities last year amended the elucidation on any provision of the Basic Law in other official documents, publications or on government web sites?

Reply:

Acting President,

     The Preamble of the Basic Law stipulates that the People's Republic of China (PRC) has decided that, upon China's resumption of the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong, a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) will be established in accordance with the provisions of Article 31 of the Constitution of the PRC, and that under the principle of "one country, two systems", the socialist system and policies will not be practised in Hong Kong. In accordance with the Constitution of the PRC, the National People's Congress (NPC) enacted the Basic Law of the HKSAR of the PRC, prescribing the systems to be practised in the HKSAR, in order to ensure the implementation of the basic policies of the PRC regarding Hong Kong.

     Article 1 of the Basic Law states that "the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is an inalienable part of the People's Republic of China". Article 2 of the Basic Law clearly stipulates that "the National People's Congress authorizes the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to exercise a high degree of autonomy and enjoy executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication, in accordance with the provisions of this Law". Article 12 of the Basic Law also provides that "the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be a local administrative region of the People's Republic of China, which shall enjoy a high degree of autonomy and come directly under the Central People's Government". Article 5 of the Basic Law stipulates that "the socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years". Article 3 of the Basic Law prescribes that "the executive authorities and legislature of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be composed of permanent residents of Hong Kong in accordance with the relevant provisions of this Law". Many provisions of the Basic Law, including Articles 44, 61 and 55, etc. prescribe respectively that the Chief Executive, principal officials and members of the Executive Council of the HKSAR shall be Chinese citizens who are permanent residents of the Region with no right of abode in any foreign country.  

     Given the aforementioned articles of the Basic Law, it is evident that "one country, two systems", "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" and a high degree of autonomy are being implemented through relevant provisions of the Basic Law.

     Our reply to Hon Claudia Mo's question, after consulting the Information Services Department (ISD), is as follows:

(1) Compiled by the ISD, the "Hong Kong Fact Sheets" series aim to provide basic information about Hong Kong on over 60 topics covering government structure, the judiciary, public finance, and financial services, etc. The ISD regularly invites relevant policy bureaux, departments and organisations to assist in updating and editing the contents of the various "Hong Kong Fact Sheets" topics to reflect the latest information and data, as well as to meet the requirements of word count and typesetting for publication.

     When updating the "Hong Kong Fact Sheets", relevant officers of the policy bureaux, departments and organisations will review the contents that are relevant to their purview and provide necessary updates, or add new information, or make editorial refinements.

     The recent update of the topical "Hong Kong Fact Sheets - The Basic Law" made some editorial refinements and did not involve revisions of any content and information. In fact, public documents about the policy initiatives of the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau (CMAB) submitted to the Panel on Constitutional Affairs of the Legislative Council by the Bureau have also adopted the order of "one country, two systems", "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" and a high degree of autonomy. As such, the order used in the "Hong Kong Fact Sheets" is not exceptional.

     Adopting the translation of "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" in the English version of the "Hong Kong Fact Sheets" is for the consistency of word choice. The word was first used in the Hong Kong Yearbook 2007. We have also noted that Clause 1 of Article 22 of the Basic Law reads "...the affairs which the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region administers on its own in accordance with this Law". Besides, the CMAB has also adopted the translation of "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" in its replies to the questions on the estimates of expenditure in the Legislative Council.

     Mr Acting President, I reiterate that the update of the "Hong Kong Fact Sheets - The Basic Law" is purely based on editorial refinement considerations. It is not intended to and will definitely not affect the provisions and the underlying principles of the Basic Law. The revisions will definitely not affect the PRC's authorisation of the HKSAR to implement the principles of "one country, two systems", "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" and a high degree of autonomy in accordance with the Basic Law.

(2) As stated in paragraph (1) of the reply, the HKSAR Government regularly updates and edits various government publications, government websites and other information papers issued by the government. The Basic Law is the constitutional document of the HKSAR. Any update of background information or editorial refinements will not affect the legal effect of the provisions or the underlying principles of the Basic Law.

(3) The full text of the Basic Law includes the Preamble, nine chapters (consists of a total number of 160 articles) and three annexes. In view of space constraints, the "Hong Kong Fact Sheets - The Basic Law" has all along only provided brief introduction on some important provisions of the Basic Law to illustrate the basic policies of the PRC regarding Hong Kong. We have provided the website of the Basic Law in the "Hong Kong Fact Sheets - The Basic Law" for the convenience of readers who wish to view the specific details of the full text of the Basic Law.

     In addition, information on the Basic Law posted on CMAB's website contains mainly the background and summaries of provisions of the Basic Law. As the design of the website is more flexible with fewer restrictions in word count, we are able to set out Article 28 of the Basic Law in full on the website.

Ends/Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Issued at HKT 15:16

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