Select Committee on Foreign Affairs First Special Report




  6.  This note follows the Foreign Secretary's two responses to the Committee's report on Hong Kong. Since the second, the Foreign Secretary has submitted three six-monthly Hong Kong reports to Parliament (Cm 4415, Cm 4594 and Cm 4809). We have also submitted a memorandum on Hong Kong and Macau as one of our four memoranda for the Committee's inquiry into the role and policies of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in relation to the People's Republic of China.

  7.  Elections to the Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo) were held on 10 September as planned, and were judged free and fair. The largest party in the previous LegCo, the Democratic Party, won 12 of the 60 seats, one fewer than at the last elections in 1998. The second largest party in the last LegCo, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, won 11 seats, two more than last time (although one of their legislators subsequently resigned following a scandal). Nineteen legislators are non-affiliated. The turnout rate was 43.6 per cent: a lower figure than the turnout at the 1998 elections (53.3 per cent) but higher than the turnout figures in the last two pre-handover elections.

  8.  Meanwhile, debate on the development of Hong Kong's political system has continued. In June the LegCo panel on Constitutional Affairs called on the SAR Government to conduct a review and carry out public consultation as soon as possible. In his fourth Policy Address, delivered on 11 October, Chief Executive C H Tung said that the SAR Government would look at certain issues of governance in Hong Kong, including the accountability of senior officials, communication between the executive and the legislature and the composition of the Executive Council.

  9.  Our overall assessment remains that Hong Kong's essential freedoms remain intact. However, there have been a few new controversies since the last six-monthly report:

    (a)  In August and September, a number of students were arrested who had been involved in street demonstrations in April and June. The arrests were made under the Public Order Ordinance, which requires organisers of demonstrations to give the Police advance notice of any proposed march of more than 30 people or of any proposed assembly of more than 50. The SAR Government has decided not to prosecute in respect of the April incident, but has yet to decide on prosecution in respect of the June incident. All the students were bailed after their arrest.

    (b)  Critics of the students' arrest have called for liberalisation of the provisions of the Public Ordinance governing demonstrations. They have expressed concern that, while the Police have allowed many demonstrations (or a notifiable size) to go ahead without advance notification, and there have to date been no prosecutions, the SAR Government might use its power selectively to prosecute those it regards as troublemakers. The Hong Kong Bar Association has questioned whether the Ordinance complies with the Basic Law's provisions on peaceful assembly and freedom of expression and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

    (c )  Another controversy arose following allegations made in July by a Hong Kong University academic, Robert Chung, that he was given a message that C H Tung wanted him to stop carrying out opinion polls on his popularity. An independent University inquiry has found that Chung had been given a message calculated to inhibit his academic freedom at the behest of the Vice-Chancellor of the University; and that this was the result of a conversation between the Vice Chancellor and Mr Tung's aide Andrew Lo. The Vice-Chancellor denied that he had acted in any improper way but resigned on 6 September. Academic freedom is guaranteed under the Joint Declaration, and any suggestion that it is being infringed would be a cause for concern; however, we welcome the fact that there was an independent inquiry into this incident.

  10.  In paragraphs 12-13 of the Foreign Secretary's response of November 1998, he explained the position then on the resolution of applications for British citizenship from persons of ethnic Pakistani origin under the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1997. The Ethnic Minorities Citizenship Unit at the British Consulate-General in Hong Kong was formally closed on 30 June 1999 and all residual work and new applications were transferred to the Home Office. The Consulate-General continues to receive applications under the Act and forward them to the Home Office for processing. Approximately 600 cases involved applicants of ethnic Pakistani origin whose applications for British citizenship were dependent on whether they held Pakistani nationality on 4 February 1997. These included applications from children born in Hong Kong to fathers who were Pakistani citizens at the time of their children's birth. Meetings with the Pakistani authorities in September 1999 confirmed that approximately 200 such children held Pakistani nationality and therefore failed to qualify for British citizenship under the 1997 Act since they held another (non-British) nationality. Approximately 400 applicants were granted British citizenship on the grounds that they did not hold Pakistani nationality.

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Prepared 9 January 2001