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HKSAR Government strongly opposes the UK Six-monthly Report on Hong Kong
     The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government today (January 12) vehemently refutes the slandering remarks and ill-intentioned political attacks on the HKSAR under the successful application of the "one country, two systems" principle in the so-called United Kingdom Six-monthly Report on Hong Kong: January to June 2022 (Report). The HKSAR is an inalienable part of the People's Republic of China. The HKSAR Government urges again the United Kingdom (UK) to respect the basic norms governing international relations and stop interfering in the affairs of the HKSAR.
     Regarding the Report's indication that the UK will seek to work constructively with the Chief Executive within their wider relationship, the HKSAR Government states that the HKSAR has been proactively maintaining extensive ties and facilitating cooperation with different countries and regions in accordance with the Basic Law, which premises on mutual respect of the "one country, two systems" principle and not to smear or slander the successful application of such principle nor interfere with the affairs of the HKSAR.
Chief Executive Election

     The HKSAR Government strongly opposes the misleading accusations against the 2022 Chief Executive Election in the so-called Report published by the UK. The improved electoral system of the HKSAR puts in place legal safeguards to ensure full implementation of "patriots administering Hong Kong". Keeping political power in the hands of patriots is a political rule commonly adopted in the world. No one in any country or region in the world will ever allow political power to fall into the hands of forces or individuals who do not love, or even sell out or betray, their own country. Regardless of one's background, whoever meets the requirements and criteria of patriots, can participate in elections in accordance with the law and serve the Hong Kong public by entering into the governance structure of the HKSAR after getting successfully elected.
     In accordance with the improved electoral system, the sixth-term Chief Executive Election was successfully held by the HKSAR Government on May 8, 2022, in strict accordance with the electoral laws of the HKSAR in an open, fair and honest manner. The improved electoral system has broadened representation in the electorate for the Chief Executive Election through expanding the Election Committee from 1 200 members from four sectors to 1 500 members from five sectors. Those from newly included subsectors who are eligible to elect the Chief Executive come from grassroots organisations, district groups, small and medium-sized enterprises and Hong Kong members of relevant national organisations, fully demonstrating the broad representation and balanced participation of the new electoral system.
Safeguarding National Security
     Besides, the HKSAR Government strongly opposes any unfounded allegations against the Hong Kong National Security Law (NSL). The NSL clearly stipulates the four categories of offences that endanger national security. The HKSAR Government again reiterates that as long as the laws in Hong Kong are strictly observed, regardless of whether they are Hong Kong residents or overseas tourists and investors, they will not unwittingly violate the law. As the HKSAR Government has time and again emphasised, all law enforcement actions taken by Hong Kong law enforcement agencies under the NSL or any local legislation are based on evidence, strictly according to the law and for the acts of the people, institutions and organisations concerned, and have nothing to do with their political stance, background or occupation. The suggestion that persons or organisations with certain backgrounds should be immune from legal sanctions for their illegal acts and activities is tantamount to granting them privileges to break the law and is totally contrary to the spirit of the rule of law.
     On the bail arrangement, with the cardinal importance of safeguarding national security and preventing and suppressing acts endangering national security, the NSL introduces more stringent conditions to the grant of bail in relation to offences endangering national security. The HKSAR Government considers it outraging for the UK to make extremely misleading statements on the implementation of the arrangement in the so-called Report.
     Extraterritorial application vested with the NSL is in line with the well-recognised international law principle of "protective jurisdiction". If foreigners commit crimes abroad against a sovereign state that endanger its security or its vital interests, the sovereign state is rightfully entitled to adopt laws with extraterritorial effects to exercise prescriptive criminal jurisdiction over those foreigners. Extraterritoriality is in fact a common feature of national security laws in many countries. The extraterritorial effect provided for in the NSL aligns with the principles of international law and international practice. Criticisms levied against our application of extraterritoriality on NSL are clearly tainted with double standards.
     As regards the sedition offence under the Crimes Ordinance, the courts of the HKSAR have ruled in different cases that the provisions relating to sedition are consistent with the relevant provisions of the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights on the protection of human rights, and that a proportionate and reasonable balance has been struck between safeguarding national security and protection of the freedom of speech.
     As an international practice, every state will enact laws to safeguard national security. It should be stressed that the NSL was enacted to restore the enjoyment of rights and freedoms which many people in the HKSAR had been unable to enjoy during the period of serious violence between June 2019 and early 2020. The NSL has indeed achieved the intended effect, and has swiftly and effectively restored stability and security.
Safeguarding Due Administration of Justice and Rule of Law
     The HKSAR Government safeguards independent judicial power and fully supports the Judiciary in exercising its judicial power independently, safeguarding the due administration of justice and the rule of law. Articles 2, 19 and 85 of the Basic Law specifically provide that the HKSAR enjoys independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication, and the courts of the HKSAR shall exercise judicial power independently, free from any interference.
     The Department of Justice (DoJ) controls criminal prosecutions, free from any interference by virtue of Article 63 of the Basic Law. All prosecutorial decisions are based on evidence, applicable laws and the Prosecution Code. Prosecutions would only be commenced if there is sufficient admissible evidence to support a reasonable prospect of conviction. Hong Kong is governed by the rule of law where laws must be observed and lawbreakers will be held to account in accordance with the law. No one is above the law. Cases will never be handled any differently owing to the political beliefs or backgrounds of the persons involved. No one should interfere with independent prosecutorial decisions which are made strictly in accordance with the law. The DoJ will continue to discharge its constitutional duties without fear or favour.
     The NSL clearly stipulates the important rule of law principles that shall be adhered to, including conviction and punishment in accordance with the law, presumption of innocence and protection of the right to defend oneself. The Judiciary exercises judicial power independently in accordance with the law, and everyone charged with a criminal offence has the right to a fair hearing. The prosecution has the burden to prove beyond reasonable doubt the commission of an offence before a defendant may be convicted by the court.
Rights and Freedoms
     Following the implementation of the NSL, Hong Kong people continue to enjoy the legitimate rights and freedoms enshrined in the Basic Law. The NSL clearly stipulates that human rights shall be respected and protected while safeguarding national security in the HKSAR. The rights and freedoms, namely the freedoms of speech, of the press, of publication, of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration, which the residents of the HKSAR enjoy under the Basic Law and the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as applied to Hong Kong shall be protected in accordance with the law. Any measures or enforcement actions taken under the NSL must observe the above principle.
     However, such rights and freedoms are not absolute. The ICCPR also expressly states that some of the relevant rights and freedoms may be subject to restrictions as prescribed by law that are necessary for protection of national security, public safety, public order or the rights and freedoms of others, etc.
     It should also be pointed out that it is the common responsibility of all the people of Hong Kong to safeguard national security, and that any institution, organisation or individual in the HKSAR shall abide by the NSL and other laws of Hong Kong in relation to safeguarding national security.
National Security Education

     The HKSAR Government also strongly rebukes the smearing of Hong Kong's education system in the so-called Report published by the UK. The HKSAR Government ensures that students are provided with a safe and orderly school environment to learn effectively and grow healthily, and receive quality education for becoming good citizens that observe rules and laws. In this connection, the Education Bureau (EDB) has issued circulars to remind schools to timely bring the National Security Law to the attention of school staff and students, so as to ensure their awareness and understanding of, and compliance with, the Law. Schools should also form a relevant working group or assign a dedicated co-ordinator to lead schools based on a whole school approach in formulating and implementing measures related to safeguarding national security and national security education.

     Also, the EDB has the responsibility to safeguard students' wellbeing, uphold the professionalism of teachers and maintain the society's confidence in the teaching profession. The EDB should cease the working relations with any teachers' organisation that engages in political propaganda and even engages schools in politics for the purpose of achieving its political motives under the guise of being a professional education organisation.

     The provision of books to schools by the EDB for reference is not a new initiative. To support learning and teaching, the EDB has been providing curriculum guidelines, developing learning and teaching resources and providing training for teachers. These arrangements have always been well-received by schools. In addition, different subjects, including the Citizenship and Social Development, would cover learning elements which are indisputable. One clear example is the inalienable relationship between our country and Hong Kong.

     Post-secondary education institutions in the HKSAR are independent organisations. While enjoying autonomy on institutional affairs, they have the responsibility to ensure their operations are in compliance with the law and meet the interests of the community at large. The institutions are fulfilling their obligations of safeguarding national security in accordance with statutory requirements and the principle of institutional autonomy. Article 34 of the Basic Law states that Hong Kong residents shall have freedom to engage in academic research, literary and artistic creation, and other cultural activities, and Article 137 thereof states that educational institutions of all kinds may retain their autonomy and enjoy academic freedom. These specific and clear safeguards provided for in accordance with the Basic Law have not been altered in any way and remain in full force.

Economic Prospect

     Hong Kong's status as an international financial centre is unshakeable. With a stable financial market and our flourishing industries which span across sectors including banking, securities, asset management, private equity, venture capital, hedge funds, insurance and fintech etc, the prospect of our financial services industry is bright and heartening. With social stability restored by the NSL as well as the close financial integration with the Mainland, investors are more interested in the Hong Kong market and have even more confidence in the prospect of Hong Kong's financial development. As Hong Kong returns to normalcy gradually, international financial institutions have reiterated their confidence in and commitment to Hong Kong as an international financial centre, and are planning to expand their business and investment in Hong Kong.

     Under the "one country, two systems" principle, Hong Kong has the distinctive advantage of enjoying strong support of the Motherland and being closely connected to the world. With unparalleled connectivity to the Mainland and the rest of the world, Hong Kong's prospect is promising. As the centre of economic gravity in the world shifts eastward, the Mainland, along with other fast-growing economies in the region, will be a major engine of global economic growth and an abundant source of economic opportunities. Hong Kong will continue to play its unique role as a gateway and intermediary, with a view to reaping the enormous benefits of this trend and seizing the enormous development opportunities ahead. The HKSAR Government is working at full steam to create strong impetus for growth, forge better integration of a capable government and an efficient market, and proactively compete for enterprises and talents to enhance the city's competitiveness, with a view to taking the city's economic development to new heights.
Ends/Thursday, January 12, 2023
Issued at HKT 23:59
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