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Hong Kong

Volume 409: debated on Friday 18 July 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations the Government has made in respect of article 23 of the basic law of Hong Kong to the Government of the People's Republic of China. [123024]

Article 23 of the Basic Law states that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) shall enact national security legislation "on its own". We have therefore made frequent representations to the SAR Government on this issue, including at Ministerial level.We have also discussed the issue with the Chinese Government. I did so with Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui in January and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did so on 25 June with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing. On 21 July, during his visit to China, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister discussed Article 23 with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.On 16 July I issued my fourth statement about Article 23, in which I welcomed the significant amendments to the legislation made by the SAR Government on 5 July. In particular I welcomed the decision to remove from the legislation the proposed new provisions regarding the proscription of Hong Kong organisations subordinate to organisations proscribed on the Mainland on national security grounds. This had been one of the main concerns of the people of Hong Kong and of the international community and we had repeatedly expressed our concern on this issue. I also welcomed the SAR Government's decision to delay passage of the legislation to allow more time for further discussion in Hong Kong.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent negotiations have taken place between his officials and Chinese representatives regarding the preservation of Hong Kong's special status; and if he will make a statement on the role of the UK in Hong Kong. [126396]

Negotiations took place between the UK and China about Hong Kong's special status prior to the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty on 1 July 1997.Since then, there have been regular exchanges at Ministerial and official levels. During those, the situation in post-handover Hong Kong has frequently been discussed. Both sides agree on the importance of maintaining the principles of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong which provides Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy under the 'One Country, Two Systems' principle.My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary reports regularly to Parliament on the implementation of the Joint Declaration. The most recent such report was published on 16 July (Cm 5864). Our assessment continues to be that, generally, 'One Country, Two Systems' is working well in practice.We have a strong, forward-looking bilateral relationship with Hong Kong, a key partner for the UK in the Asia-Pacific region. Given Britain's role as a joint signatory of the Joint Declaration, we maintain a close interest in developments in Hong Kong.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Hong Kong. [126469]

On 16 July we published our latest report to Parliament, which reported on a number of important developments in Hong Kong in the first half of the year (Cm 5864). Our overall assessment is that, generally, the "One Country, Two Systems" principle continues to work well in practice.On the same day, I issued my fourth press statement about the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government's moves to introduce national security legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law. In this statement I welcomed the significant amendments to the legislation made by the SAR Government on 5 July. I particularly welcomed the decision to remove from the legislation the proposed new provisions regarding the proscription of Hong Kong organisations subordinate to organisations proscribed on the mainland on national security grounds. This had been one of the main concerns of the people of Hong Kong and of the international community and we had repeatedly expressed our concern on this issue. I also welcomed the SAR Government's decision to delay passage of the legislation to allow more time for further discussion in Hong Kong.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the Chinese Government's use of Article 23 legislation and the practice of Falun Gong in Hong Kong; what reports he has received on the extent of consultation by the Chinese Government with the people of Hong Kong on the use of Article 23; and what assessment he has made of the compatibility of the use of Article 23 in relation to the practice of Falun Gong and safeguards given to the people of Hong Kong when the territory was returned to China. [126508]

Article 23 of the Basic Law (in effect Hong Kong's constitution) states:

"The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People's Government (CPG) or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organisations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organisations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organisations or bodies."
The Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government introduced draft legislation, to meet its obligations under Article 23, into the Legislative Council in Hong Kong in February. The legislation has not yet been passed.I have issued three press statements about the legislation since it was introduced into the Legislative Council, most recently on 16 July when I welcomed the significant changes to the legislation made by the SAR Government on 5 July. I particularly welcomed the decision to remove from the legislation the proposed new provisions regarding the proscription of Hong Kong organisations subordinate to organisations proscribed on the Mainland on national security grounds. This had been one of the main concerns of the people of Hong Kong and of the international community and we had repeatedly expressed our concern on this issue. I also welcomed the SAR Government's decision to delay passage of the legislation to allow more time for further discussion in Hong Kong.We shall continue to follow this issue closely.