Hong Kong: question on Article 23 and answer given by European Commissioner in charge of External Relations Chris Patten
Written Question E-3560/02 by European Parliament Member Mr. Olivier Dupuis (NI) to the Commission (29 November 2002)
Subject: On the proposed introduction of Article 23 in the Hong Kong legislation
In September 2002, Hong Kong government introduced a controversial Article 23 legislation. It seems that the proposed legislation was written under direct pressure from P.R. of China and is far more restrictive and severe than required by the Basic Law. It appears that if it would be enacted, Hong Kong would have to ban any organisation determined by China as a national security risk. All dissident groups including Human Rights groups, democracy activists, Catholics and Falun Gong, as well as individuals, would be affected. This is against HK's autonomy and the 'One Country-Two Systems' principle. It seems that the proposed law would also put serious restrictions on HK's media with regard to publishing information relating to the Chinese Central Government in Beijing. What information does the Commission have on this issue? What initiatives has the Commission taken or intends to take in order to prevent the implementation of Article 23? More generally, what initiatives has the Commission taken or intends to take to urge the Hong Kong government to keep 'One country-Two systems' policy which the Chinese authority has promised to maintain in Hong Kong for 50 years after Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997, to respect the basic human rights and, in particular, the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion or belief, the freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration?"
Answer given by Mr. Patten (E-3560/02EN) on behalf of the Commission (9 January 2003)
The Commission is following closely the consultative process launched by the Hong Kong Government on 24 September 2002 with a view to implementing Article 23 of the Basic Law.
The Commission appreciates the importance and political sensitivity of this issue in the global Chinese context. However, as the consultation document was drafted in general terms, it will only be possible to make an accurate assessment on its likely effects in relation to human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of religion, once the draft bill is submitted to the Legislative Council. This should take place in February 2003. Meanwhile, the Commission will monitor the issue and will encourage the Hong Kong Government to take the views of the Hong Kong population into account.
So far, the Commission is of the opinion, as expressed in its fifth annual report on Hong Kong adopted on 5 August 2002 that the 'One Country, Two Systems' principle continues to work reasonably well, and that Hong Kong, in general, preserved its rule of law, human rights, civil liberties and free and open society.
However, the report also acknowledges that the actual implementation of these principles has given rise to some debate and uncertainty, notably in relation to Article 23. Therefore, the Commission will continue to follow further evolutions in this regard very closely.