HKSAR Government strongly objects to report of US Congressional-Executive Commission on China
The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) today (November 17) vehemently refuted the so-called “2022 Annual Report” (“Report”) issued by the United States Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), which again made slandering remarks and ill-intentioned political attacks against the HKSAR.
HKSAR is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China (China). The HKSAR Government urges again the United States (US) to respect the basic norms governing international relations and stop maliciously interfering in the affairs of the HKSAR.
The Hong Kong National Security Law (NSL)
The CECC’s so-called “Report” has again exploited unsubstantiated allegations to pursue the CECC’s despicable political motives.
The NSL clearly stipulates the four categories of offences that endanger national security. The HKSAR Government must again emphasise that law-abiding people, including Hong Kong residents as well as overseas tourists and investors, will not unwittingly violate the law. As the HKSAR Government has stressed many times, all law enforcement actions taken by the law enforcement agencies are based on evidence, strictly according to the law and for the acts of the people and entities concerned, and have nothing to do with their political stance, background or occupation. Suggestions that persons or organisations with certain backgrounds should be immune to legal sanctions for their illegal acts and activities and be granted privileges to break the law are totally contrary to 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. It is outraging that the CECC has made extremely misleading statements on the implementation of the arrangement.
Also, the HKSAR Government seriously reiterates that the so-called “sanctions” arbitrarily imposed by the US as mentioned in the CECC’s so-called “Report” smack of despicable political manipulation, grossly interfere in China’s internal affairs and HKSAR’s affairs, and violate the international law and the basic norms governing international relations. The HKSAR Government despises such so-called “sanctions” by the US, is not intimidated by such a despicable behaviour, and will resolutely continue to discharge the duty of safeguarding national security.
Safeguarding Due Administration of Justice and Rule of Law
The HKSAR Government will safeguard independent judicial power, fully support the Judiciary in exercising its judicial power independently and safeguard due administration of justice and the rule of law. Articles 2, 19 and 85 of the Basic Law specifically provide that HKSAR enjoy independent judicial power and final adjudication power while 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 background of the persons involved. No one should interfere with independent prosecutorial decisions which are made strictly in accordance with the law. DoJ will continue to discharge its constitutional duties without fear or favour.
The NSL clearly stipulates that the important principles of the rule of law should be adhered to, including conviction and punishment in accordance with the law, presumption of innocence and protection of the right to defend oneself. The prosecution has the burden to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the offence was committed knowingly or intentionally by the defendant before he or she may be found guilty by the court. 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.
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 in safeguarding national security in the HKSAR. The rights and freedoms, including 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 them 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 any institution, organisation or individual in the HKSAR shall abide by the NSL and the laws of Hong Kong in relation to safeguarding national security. Efforts of the HKSAR Government to strengthen publicity and education, thereby enhancing the understanding of national security and law-abiding awareness of the various sectors of the community, are fully justified and necessary.
The CECC’s so-called “Report” has attempted to smear the Personal Data (Privacy) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 as a tool to suppress opposition and the free flow of information. The HKSAR Government reiterates that the only objective of the Ordinance is to combat doxxing acts that intrude into personal data privacy. Through regular media statements, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data has conveyed to the public its anti-doxxing operations. Every arrest is supported by reasonable and solid evidence, with a sole aim of protecting personal data privacy.
National Security Education
The HKSAR Government strongly rebukes the CECC’s so-called “Report” for its smearing of Hong Kong’s education system. The HKSAR Government should ensure 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) 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 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 are 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, including on the handling of matters concerning student unions, 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 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.
Improving the Electoral System, full and faithful implementation of the “One Country, Two Systems” principle, and patriots administering Hong Kong
The HKSAR Government must seriously point out the untruthful allegations against the improved electoral system of the HKSAR in the CECC’s so-called “Report”. The State Council issued a white paper entitled “Hong Kong: Democratic Process Under the Framework of One Country, Two Systems” in December 2021. It states that one size does not fit all, highlights the unwavering determination of the Central People’s Government to allow democracy to develop in the city, and explains that this will be a democracy with Hong Kong characteristics.
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 fundamental 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. The HKSAR Government laments that critics of HKSAR’s electoral arrangements have chosen to totally ignore the unprecedented challenges and security risks Hong Kong faced for almost one year from the latter part of 2019 when elected members of the legislature were exploiting the political structure to engage in activities undermining national security.
In accordance with the improved electoral system of the HKSAR, the seventh-term LegCo Election and the sixth-term Chief Executive Election were successfully held by the HKSAR Government on December 19, 2021 and May 8, 2022 respectively, in strict accordance with the election laws of the HKSAR in an open, fair and honest manner.
The seventh-term Legislative Council (LegCo) was formed smoothly through elections. With over 1.3 million voters casting their ballots to elect 90 members, who love our country and Hong Kong, and act in the interests of the country’s development and the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, from 153 candidates of different backgrounds and political views. The elected legislators were returned by the Election Committee constituency, functional constituencies and geographical constituencies through direct elections, thereby balancing the overall interests of Hong Kong, the interests of different sectors and districts. The result has proven that 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 HKSAR.
Apart from the LegCo, the 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 political inclusiveness of the new electoral system.
To effectively organise and regulate relevant electoral activities in accordance with law, with a view to implementing a new electoral system that accords with the actual situation in Hong Kong, the HKSAR Government has to take measures in accordance with the law to regulate acts that manipulate or sabotage elections. Voting is not only a right but a civic duty. If someone openly incites voters not to vote, to cast blank or invalid votes during an election period, it may create undue pressure on voters and affect their freedom to choose whether to exercise their right to vote. Such a conduct is one of the acts that can sabotage an election, and the HKSAR Government is therefore obliged to combat improper conduct that may affect the exercise of the right to vote by voters.
Oath-taking for District Council Members
In response to the unfounded allegations on issues related to the District Council in the CECC’s so-called “Report”, the HKSAR Government must point out that the oath-taking for District Council members is conducted in strict accordance with the law. The Public Offices (Candidacy and Taking Up Offices) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Ordinance 2021 requires District Council members to take an oath to uphold the Basic Law and bear allegiance to the HKSAR. According to the Interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the person administering the oath has the duty to ensure that the oath is taken in a lawful manner. He or she shall determine that an oath taken in compliance with the Interpretation and the requirements under the laws of Hong Kong is valid, and that an oath which is not taken in compliance with the Interpretation and the requirements under the laws of Hong Kong is invalid. If the oath taken is determined as invalid, no arrangement shall be made for retaking the oath.
The so-called “sanctions” by the US as mentioned in the CECC’s so-called “Report” neither create any obligation for financial institutions under Hong Kong law. Our financial institutions and our financial system as a whole are robust and resilient. They will continue to operate normally and smoothly despite any undue pressure from the US. 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. In fact, the HKSAR Government noticed that the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong recently expressed that most of its members intended to stay 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 strengthen the city’s competitiveness, with a view to taking the city’s economic development to new heights.