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Saturday, Jul 04, 2020

'High autonomy doesn't mean Beijing has no power'

Chief Executive Carrie Lam today rejected claims that the Central Government has interfered in Hong Kong’s affairs and emphasised that having a high degree of autonomy doesn’t mean Central authorities have given up powers related to Hong Kong.
Mrs Lam made the statement when she briefed the media this evening on the latest batch of relief measures to assist individuals and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

She responded to a reporter's question concerning criticism by the Hong Kong & Macao Affairs Office and the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region that some legislators could be guilty of misconduct in public office for holding up bills in the Legislative Council by filibustering and delaying the election of a new chairman of the House Committee.

“I want to refute, categorically, any accusation that such comments made by the two offices constitute interference, especially when some critics refer to Basic Law Article 22. I see no grounds for that sort of accusation.

“So when they see this very bizarre situation, when the Legislative Council is almost malfunctioning because the House Committee has not been able to elect a chairman for over six months, I find it only legitimate for them to express their concern.

“If you look at it from a governance perspective, the Legislative Council has very clear functions under the Basic Law, including the making of legislation, receiving of complaints from the people of Hong Kong and debate on the Chief Executive’s Policy Address.

“Many of these functions have not been discharged since October last year because of the way that someone has handled the election of the House Committee Chairman and this has gone on for six months. So this is really unacceptable.

“That means it will certainly affect the things that we want to do, which we are doing for the people of Hong Kong.”

Mrs Lam noted that just because Hong Kong has a high degree of autonomy does not mean that Central authorities have given up powers concerning Hong Kong's affairs.

“One has to fully understand that under ‘one country, two systems’, yes, through the system and through the Basic Law, the Central authorities have given Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy, but that doesn’t mean that the Central Government has given up its power and authority on Hong Kong affairs.

“The Central Government has always been very supportive of the Hong Kong SAR Government’s work in terms of improving livelihood and also promoting Hong Kong’s economic development.”

The Chief Executive expressed disappointment that some lawmakers are holding up Legco’s work at a time when the Government is trying to devote efforts to combat COVID-19, including the latest package of measures to help individuals and businesses tide over financial difficulties during the epidemic.

“It is for all to see that after a period of malfunctioning, a lot of government business, especially in legislation, has been held up by the House Committee not having its proper function and operation for so long.

“Much of the legislation has a direct impact on Hong Kong’s economic development and the livelihood of the people. So this is a very unfortunate event and a very undesirable phenomenon which we should all try to rectify as soon as possible.”

Funding for the relief measures will be sought from the Legislative Council Finance Committee at its meeting on April 17.

Mrs Lam called on people to put aside their differences to combat the epidemic.

“I would say that the Hong Kong SAR Government would have a much easier life in this anti-epidemic work if we have more cohesiveness in society - more unity, more solidarity, putting aside our political differences for the time being - in order to help Hong Kong to go out of this epidemic as soon as possible.”
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