CHAPTER 10: HONG KONG
306. Hong Kong's Special Administrative Region
(SAR) status gives it an economic as well as a political advantage.
Lord Patten of Barnes
thought that Hong Kong had "gone pretty well" since
it returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. It was one of the
freest places in Asia and had been remarkably successful (Q 566).
Isabel Hilton agreed that, on the whole, Hong Kong was a success
Hong Kong Constitutional Arrangements
|Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China on 1 July 1997. Under the Basic Law Hong Kong operates under the "One Country, Two Systems" principle which allows it to have a separate legal, commercial and political system, though ultimate authority lies with the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing. Hong Kong currently operates a three-tier system of administration with 18 district councils; a Legislative Council (LegCo) last elected on 7 September 2008 for a period of four years; and a Chief Executive, presently Donald Tsang, elected on 25 March 2007, for a period of five years. The Basic Law (Articles 45 and 68) states that the "ultimate aim" is universal suffrage for both LegCo and the Chief Executive, though it does not specify any dates by which this must be accomplished. At present direct election is only available for a majority of seats in the district councils and half of the 60 seats in LegCo. The other 30 seats in LegCo are indirectly elected by functional constituencies; and the Chief Executive is also indirectly elected by an 800-member election committee. Changes to the existing system require the support of the Chief Executive and two-thirds of LegCo, and the approval of the NPC.|
In December 2007 the Standing Committee of the NPC (SCNPC) in Beijing rejected the possibility of universal suffrage for 2012, when both executive and legislative elections fall. It indicated that direct election for Chief Executive might be possible in 2017, dependent on certain conditions. Direct election might be possible for Legco after the first direct election for Chief Executive had been conducted. Any proposal to change the existing system and move to direct elections would require the ultimate approval of the SCNPC.
307. Maria Tam
explained that a 2007 decision by the National People's Congress
Standing Committee on future electoral arrangements in Hong Kong
meant that in the 2012 elections the LegCo would retain geographic
and functional constituencies. No significant decisions would
be taken before 2012 on the introduction of universal suffrage
for the 2017 and 2020 elections. Democratic and conservative factions
had different views on this: the former wanted an early decision
on arrangements for 2017 and 2020 while the latter were content
to wait for 2012. The NPC had also decided that the Chief Executive
would be chosen by universal suffrage in 2017 although there would
be a selection process to determine who could stand. In the eyes
of many Chinese, Hong Kong was as free as it had ever been.
308. According to Stephen Lam
there were possibilities for democratic development, even though
universal suffrage had been deferred. Jasper Tsang
said that his Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress
of Hong Kong saw economic and social concerns as higher priority
than political rights and democratic development. Margaret Ng
thought that it was important to maintain relations with the European
Parliament; however, how to keep up lobbying on democracy and
human rights was a challenge.
309. Europe Minister Chris Bryant told us that
the Government wanted the Hong Kong SAR to move swiftly to a system
of universal suffrage as envisaged in its Basic Law. The EU had
been very supportive of UK messages on this. The UK was limited
in what it could say because of its colonial past; Hong Kong was
a "classic instance" where the EU's intervention could
be "pretty decisive" (Q 789).
310. Dr Steven Tsang (Oxford University)
agreed that the EU should take an "active benevolent interest"
in the SARs of Hong Kong and Macao and should encourage the Chinese
government to work with Hong Kong politicians and citizens for
a mutually beneficial outcome on democratisation (p 323).
Democratic politicians were frustrated by the lack of progress.
They wanted dialogue with the Chinese government who should try
to understand them as they enjoyed support in Hong Kong. Dialogue
posed no threat to the authority of the central government and
was permitted by the Basic Law. Five Hong Kong legislators had
resigned in order to use by-elections as a "de facto referendum"
on faster democratisation. The Chinese government wished to see
the Hong Kong SAR flourish but this required Hong Kong people
to feel contented, which included having an opportunity to exercise
their democratic rights (p 324).
311. Professor Breslin told us that Hong
Kong remained a very important conduit for foreign investment
into China; some 80% of Japanese money invested in Hong Kong ended
up in the Pearl River Delta (Guangdong province) (Q 203).
Stephen Lam told us that the financial situation was stable and
there had been no need for bank recapitalisation or rescues. Hong
Kong businesses had 100,000 factories in the rest of China with
10 million employees, three times the Hong Kong workforce. Maria
confirmed that Hong Kong was a platform for entry into China and
important for influence into China. In a reverse process, Beijing
pursued Taiwan by means of Hong Kong. EU-Hong Kong trade and commercial
links continued to expand and to move towards European standards
of regulation. The Macao and Hong Kong SARs had Market Economy
Status, which Beijing did not.
312. Ms Castillo Fernandez said that the EU office
in Hong Kong had 13 staff, four from the EU and nine local agents,
and reported directly to Brussels in the same way as the EU's
Beijing office. This was not adequate for the level of political
work that had to be undertaken. 17 EU Member States had diplomatic
representation in Hong Kong.
313. The EU should continue to take an interest
in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, including
the implementation of its Basic Law and progress towards universal
suffrage. Pressure put on China by a unified EU to maintain momentum
on these issues can be more productive than by the UK alone because
of the UK's colonial history. We welcome the EU's support for
the British Government's position on universal suffrage and its
efforts to persuade the Chinese government to make faster progress.
The EU should encourage the Chinese government and the Hong Kong
authorities to work with Hong Kong politicians and citizens for
a mutually beneficial outcome within the framework of the Basic
115 Last UK Governor of Hong Kong, 1992-97. Back
Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong,
Appendix 4. Back
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Hong Kong Special
Administrative Region Government, Appendix 4. Back
President of the Legislative Council; Democratic Alliance for
the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), Appendix 4. Back
Civic Party, Hong Kong, Appendix 4. Back
Head of the then Commission delegation in Hong Kong and Macao,
Appendix 4. Back