LegCo Paper No. CB(2)710/96-97
(The minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/PL/CA

LegCo Panel on Constitutional Affairs

Minutes of Meeting
held on Thursday, 10 October 1996 at 4:15 p.m.
in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

    Hon SZETO Wah ( Chairman )
    Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP ( Deputy Chairman ) Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Hon LEE Wing-tat
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee

Member Attending :

    Hon Howard YOUNG, JP

Members Absent :

    Hon James TO *
    Dr. Hon YEUNG Sum *
    Hon David CHU Yu-lin *

Public Officers attending :

Mr Nicholas NG, JP
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs
Mr Joseph LAI
Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Clerk in attendance :

Mrs Betty LEUNG
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 3

Staff in attendance :

Mrs Justina LAM
Assistant Secretary General 2
Miss Erin TSANG
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 7

Briefing by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs on the Governor’s Policy Address 1996

The Chairman welcomed government officials from the Constitutional Affairs Branch ( CAB ) for attending the meeting to brief members on their policy commitments.

2. Mr NG informed the meeting that CAB was responsible for co-ordinating the Hong Kong Government’s ( HKG ) preparatory work for the transition, which included two major areas of work, i.e. making contributions to the Joint Liaison Group (JLG) and co-operating with the Preparatory Committee (PC) and the Chief Executive (Designate) (CE(Des)). He then highlighted the more important points for members’ information, which included the achievements of JLG, major issues for JLG to accomplish before the run-up, and HKG’s assistance provided to PC and, once chosen, CE(Des).

Matters straddling 1997

3. Mr LEE wing-tat asked whether it would still be necessary for HKG to report to JLG issues relating to Hong Kong’s internal affairs and to seek Chinese side’s agreement after the CE(Des) was in place by the end of the year. In response, Mr NG said that the overriding principle was to ensure a smooth transition and JLG was to discuss transitional matters. He also indicated that the relationship between JLG and CE(Des) would depend on various factors including the then circumstances. Mr LEE Wing-tat then took the commencement date for the construction of the Western Corridor Railway as an example and enquired whether the Administration would consult CE(Des) or JLG. Mr NG replied that if the construction date was before 1 July 1997, HKG would make the decision; but if the preparation for the project could not be completed for the construction work to start before 1 July 1997, then the issue would be left to the future Special Administrative Region ( SAR ) government for determination. In this regard, Mr NG drew members’ attention that the Joint Declaration had spelt out clearly that the Government of the United Kingdom would be responsible for the administration of the territory until 30 June 1997.

Election of CE(Des)

4. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong asked whether JLG had considered issues relating to the election of CE(Des), in particular to the question of election expense ceiling and measures on preventing bribery and corruptive activities. Mr NG said that owing to the confidentiality rule, he could not disclose JLG’s discussion items. He could confirm, however, that HKG and the British government had repeatedly made it clear to the Chinese side that the said election should, in line with the wish of the Hong Kong people, be open and fair. As regards the detailed arrangements of the election, Mr NG said that it was a matter for the PC rather than HKG. Since HKG was responsible for the administration of Hong Kong until 30 June 1997 and that the said election would take place soon, Mr CHEUNG enquired what action HKG would take if corruptive practices occurred or if there were allegations of illicit undertakings. In response, Mr NG reiterated that the remit of the prevailing electoral laws of Hong Kong did not cover the said election, thus the provisions of the local electoral laws could not be invoked to govern the CE(Des) election. In view of such legal vacuum, Mr CHEUNG asked Mr NG whether HKG would put the matter up to JLG for deliberation. In reply, Mr NG emphasized that the CE(Des) election was arranged by the Chinese government and it was not the responsibility of HKG. However, as a general point, HKG would take action against any person who was in breach of Hong Kong laws.

Localization of laws and rendition of offenders

5. Upon Miss LAU’s request for an update, Mr NG said that there were a number of proposals concerning localization of laws that had yet to be discussed with the Chinese side. The aim of HKG was to complete the localization programme before 1 July 1997. Mr NG also stated that there were nine items in respect of which China’s agreement was still awaiting. These included the Official Secrets Act, the Maritime Conventions Act and ordinances about commercial laws, transfer of sentenced persons, civil aviation and telecommunications. Mr NG said that he hoped agreement could be reached in time for the enactment of the localised bills by June 1997. With reference to legal co-operation with China on civil, criminal and commercial matters, Mr NG informed the meeting that HKG as well as the Hong Kong community had repeatedly reflected to China their concerns and worries. As for the negotiation with China on rendition of offenders, it was already under way. Miss Emily LAU then asked whether the rendition issue would come to a deadlock because China had capital punishment whereas Hong Kong did not. Mr NG said that he would not want to prejudge the issue. He noted, however, that according to surrender of fugitive offenders agreements Hong Kong had with other countries, one of the principles was that no transfer would be made if the offender had committed a crime which would entail death penalty in the country which requested for the surrender of the fugitive.

Co-operation with CE(Des)

6. In reply to Mr IP Kwok-him’s enquiry on whether any initial ideas had been exchanged with the Chinese side regarding the possible methods of co-operation with CE(Des), Mr NG said that the ideas exchanged were only preliminary ones. For example, the Administration envisaged that when the CE(Des) was in place, a briefing would be arranged to furnish him/her with the necessary background information. Mr NG pointed out that HKG was committed to providing all necessary assistance to CE(Des) with a view to facilitating his/her setting up of the future SAR government.

7. In addition, Mr Bruce LIU raised the following questions for clarification:

  1. Where would CE(Des)’s office be located? After CE(Des) was elected, would he/she receive salaries during the period between January and June 1997? If so, who (HKG or the Chinese government) would pay for them?
  2. Would the Law Drafting Division of the Legal Department provide assistance to CE(Des) in relation to drafting of bills on permanent residency?
  3. Who (the existing legislature or the provisional legislature) would approve the appointment of judges for the Court of Final Appeal which was to be established by 1 July 1997? What was the government’s understanding on the issue?

Mr NG told the meeting that the above matters raised by Mr Bruce LIU had not been brought up for in-depth discussion yet. He noted that these were issues which would be followed up with CE(Des) once he/she was in place.

8. Mr Howard YOUNG noted that one of CAB’s Policy Commitments was to provide immediate assistance to CE(Des) once the appointment was made. He asked at which point in time the CE(Des) would be considered to have been formally appointed by the Central People’s Government (CPG). He noted that there could be a time gap between the Selection Committee making a recommendation and the CPG making the appointment. Mr NG explained that emphasis would not be laid on when the appointment would be made. He maintained that the Administration would render all necessary assistance to CE(Des) on the basis of the three established parameters as soon as he/she was selected so that timely preparation for setting up the future SAR government could be made.

9. There being no further questions from members, the meeting ended at 4:55 pm.

LegCo Secretariat
5 November 1996

* -- Other Commitments

Last Updated on 13 August 1998