Fight virus with one mind and one heart Stand four-square behind national security Rise to challenges despite immense difficulties
19 July 2020
The swift emergence of numerous confirmed cases lately with many having an unknown source has signalled a ferocious third wave of COVID-19 in Hong Kong.
Fight virus with one mind and one heartIn tackling the epidemic, the Government has all along been staying alert to the situation, responding promptly and working in an open and transparent manner. In response to the third wave of infections, a new round of measures was announced last week, including further limiting the number of persons in group gatherings, tightening social distancing measures as well as stepping up preventive measures at border control points while introducing regulations to impose stringent requirements on inbound travellers from cross-boundary conveyances. Furthermore, the Government will provide free COVID-19 testing service for designated high-risk groups1.
I understand that a nighttime ban on dine-in services may cause inconvenience to some people. However, this is a measure aimed to minimise gatherings and the risk of spreading virus, thereby cutting off the transmission chain and containing the outbreak as soon as possible. I would like to call for co-operation and patience from all Hong Kong citizens. We must unite and come together in the combat against the disease.
Provision of quarantine facilities is a very significant task of the Government’s strategy of keeping the epidemic in check. Last Monday, I visited the newly constructed quarantine centre at Penny’s Bay, which provides 800 units and is expected to be in use this week. As for the quarantine facility at a Penny’s Bay site originally reserved for future tourism development, an additional 700 units are initially expected by the end of September.
To help enterprises and people hard hit by the epidemic or adversely affected by anti-epidemic measures, the Government has launched two rounds of Anti-epidemic Fund so far. In light of the development of the epidemic, opinions of different shareholders, views from Legislative Councillors and actual business environment, the Government has approved nine more measures under the Anti-epidemic Fund Steering Committee chaired by me.
Last Wednesday, I and three principal officials attended a special meeting held by the Legislative Council (LegCo) House Committee to listen to Members’ views on the anti-epidemic work, health code and measures supporting enterprises and individuals. Members showed much concern about the effectiveness of the newly implemented measures and their implications on different trades.
The Government will keep an eye on the development of the epidemic as well as the needs of enterprises and individuals in order to bring in enhanced and new appropriate measures within available resources by optimising the contingency provisions under the Anti-epidemic Fund.
Stand four-square behind national securityOn national security law, western politicians continue their incessant interference in China’s internal affairs one way or another. Among them, the United States (US) signed into law last week the so-called Hong Kong Autonomy Act (the Act) passed by the US Congress and adopted a series of measures under the President’s executive order. In response, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government issued a solemn statement to express its firm opposition, repugnance and strong discontent.
The US move seriously violates international law and the basic norms underpinning international relations, and constitutes gross interference in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs. The HKSAR Government will fully support the Central Government to adopt counter-measures and will not allow US hegemony to succeed.
The special status as a separate customs territory enjoyed by the HKSAR under “One Country, Two Systems” is conferred by the Constitution of our country and the Basic Law. It is recognised by multilateral organisations such as the World Trade Organization, but not granted or revocable by an individual country.
It is hypocritical for the US to introduce measures to attack China by creating issues in the HKSAR under the pretext of human rights, democracy and autonomy out of its own political considerations. It is egregious for the US to undermine the relationship between the HKSAR and the Central Authority under “One Country, Two Systems” and to cover its acts by the political slogan of “supporting Hong Kong people”. This move is in violation of international law and will definitely harm the relations and common interests between China and the US and that of Hong Kong and the US, causing tremendous damages to the companies and people of the US.
The US has clearly demonstrated double standards by rationalising the measures to be adopted under the Act and the executive order on ground of safeguarding its national security, while claiming that the enactment of national security legislation by the Central Authority for the HKSAR is undermining the HKSAR’s high degree of autonomy. This is absolutely unacceptable.
In fact, the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong made it clear that the revocation of Hong Kong’s special trade status with the US would hurt the interests of 1 300 US firms based in Hong Kong, and that Hong Kong has been a strong market for American goods by which the US has long enjoyed huge trade surpluses.
The LegCo: Rise to challenges despite immense difficulties
The four-year term of the Sixth LegCo ended last Friday. We, this current-term Government, attach great importance to the relationship between the executive and the legislature. Shortly after taking office, the Chief Executive (CE) made special efforts to appear frequently before the LegCo by attending Council meetings on a monthly basis to answer Members’ questions directly in a “short question, short answer” format with a view to enhancing positive interaction and effective communication.
In the past two years, however, LegCo debates, be they on livelihood or economic issues, have become increasingly politicised and disrupted, making it difficult for the CE to have rational communication and discussion with Members in the Council. For the first time in our history, the CE was unable to finish presenting the Policy Address at the LegCo last October owing to disorderliness at the meeting.
Non-pro-establishment Members, who put political considerations before people’s well-being, have tied the government’s hands in pursuing legislation and seeking funding approval. Continued filibustering has seriously affected the procedural efficiency of the legislature. Worse still, the operation of the House Committee was brought to a halt for nearly seven months as a result of their wilful obstruction and filibustering. The law-making function of the LegCo was seriously hindered.
The LegCo used to be a place where lawmakers seek to reach the widest consensus through rational communication. But in recent years, some Members acted primarily out of political agenda in a desperate bid to paralyse the normal operation of the LegCo, with total disregard of our economic development and people’s livelihood.
Although the executive-legislature relationship has been a stormy one, we have managed to pass certain legislative proposals and secure resources thanks to the unflagging support of pro-establishment Members and the strenuous efforts of our colleagues in rising to the challenges.
On legislation, the HKSAR Government introduced 89 bills to the Sixth LegCo, of which 78 were passed. Here are some of the most significant ones:
- the National Anthem Bill, which sought to signify the HKSAR’s fulfilment of its constitutional responsibility and reflect the spirit of “One Country, Two Systems”;
- the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (Co-location) Bill, which sought to implement co-location arrangement and create more development opportunities for Hong Kong; and
- the two Employment (Amendment) Bills, which sought to increase the statutory paternity leave for male employees from three days to five days and the statutory maternity leave from ten weeks to 14 weeks respectively.
In this legislative session, the Finance Committee held meetings for more than 200 hours and approved 85 out of 87 funding proposals involving a financial commitment of over $440 billion.
The 2020 LegCo General Election will be held on 6 September. The nomination period has started yesterday (July 18) and will run until July 31. The Government will, as always, ensure that the election will be held in a fair, open, honest and orderly manner.