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Criticism of HK election 'groundless'
By Tonny Chan (China Daily HK Edition)
Updated: 2005-01-15 15:44

The government yesterday denounced as groundless the criticisms of Human Rights Watch over the SAR's constitutional development, saying the organization showed a complete disregard of the facts.

Since re-unification, the central government has adhered to its commitment to ensure the people of Hong Kong run the SAR with a high degree of autonomy as provided by the Basic Law.

"Allegations contained in the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report relating to Hong Kong are groundless, with a complete disregard of fundamental facts," the spokesman said in a statement.

In its World Report, HRW claims the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) has ignored requests for consultation by Hong Kong's legislators.

It also says there is concern in Hong Kong that the country will erode human rights protections in the SAR, adding that the Legislative Council (LegCo) election in 2004 was marred by interference and intimidation from Beijing.

Commenting on the criticisms, the spokesman said the country's leaders had repeatedly expressed firm commitment to ensure Hong Kong people enjoy a high degree of autonomy.

"On constitutional development, the SAR government is committed to further opening up the methods for selecting the chief executive in 2007 and forming the LegCo in 2008," the spokesman said.

He said that in making the interpretation and decision last April, the NPCSC "duly exercised" the powers vested upon it by the country's constitution and the Basic Law.

By constitutional design, the central government has the responsibility and authority to oversee Hong Kong's constitutional development.

"It has never been the intention of 'One Country, Two Systems' that Hong Kong can, on its own, introduce changes to its electoral arrangements beyond 2007," the spokesman said.

Last April, the NPCSC accepted Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's recommendation and let the methods for electing the chief executive in 2007 and the Legislative Council in 2008 be amended according to a set of principles.

Meanwhile, the NPCSC ruled against introducing universal suffrage in the SAR in 2007 and 2008 after listening to the views of different sectors of the community.

The spokesman recalled that senior officials from the NPCSC also met representatives of different social sectors in addition to considering the views collected by the constitutional development task force.

He said that it was clear that while some people supported universal suffrage in 2007 and 2008, there were also those considering that constitutional development should proceed in a gradual and orderly manner.

He said the community should make best use of the room made available by NPCSC to widen the scope of public participation in the electoral arrangements for 2007 and 2008 in order to narrow the distance between existing arrangements and the ultimate aim of universal suffrage.

On a separate occasion, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC) said the question of when to have universal suffrage for the election of the chief executive and the legislature should best be left for the next SAR government to answer.

Maria Tam, who is also a member of the Basic Law Committee, made the remark as she set out for Shenzhen to attend a meeting with local NPC deputies and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) members.

Commenting on HRW's criticisms, Tam said it was only a question of time as universal suffrage was already stated as the ultimate objective in the Basic Law.

She believed the community should avoid getting entangled on whether or not there would be universal suffrage for the election of the chief executive and the legislature in 2007 and 2008 because NPCSC had made a clear decision on this.

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