Article 23 not on agenda, Yuen insists

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2012, 12:00am


Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung has again insisted he has no plan to introduce controversial national security legislation and says if Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying asked him to, he would try to persuade him not to.

Yuen told the media in a tea gathering yesterday: 'No one has ever said that I have to complete the legislation on Article 23 [of the Basic Law].

'If you want to put your mind at ease, I can tell you that I've asked clearly whether there will be such a 'political assignment', and the answer was no.'

Yuen said he was not including the legislation in his schedule because it could not be done in a short time.

He said the government had many livelihood issues to deal with and previous experience showed that extensive consultation was needed for the public to reach a consensus before it could be introduced to the Legislative Council.

Regarding the government's solution to the right of abode issue involving babies born to mainland parents in Hong Kong, Yuen said a study of the options would be completed in two to three months and he would present proposals as soon as he could.

But he said amending the Basic Law - the city's mini-constitution - would be a 'last resort'.

The controversy stems from a 2001 Court of Final Appeal ruling that gave all babies born to mainland mothers in Hong Kong the right of abode. Since then, an estimated 170,000 such babies have been born in the city, raising fears that such an influx would put a strain on public services.

Yuen said that he would do his best to make use of the local judicial system to resolve the problem before considering seeking an interpretation from Beijing.

He said his colleagues were studying whether the problem could be fixed by amending the Immigration Ordinance and whether it was possible to refuse to grant birth certificates to such babies, prompting the parents to sue the government to bring the matter to court.

Commenting on the possible prosecution of government officials over illegal structures or corruption, Yuan said he would stick to established practices to ensure any action was fair and impartial. He might delegate his power of prosecution to the director of prosecution and seek independent advice from private legal practitioners.

Lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah said amending the Basic Law was a better option than seeking an interpretation from Beijing, which would effect children born to mainland parents who had been living here.

Yuen was asked what he thought of a comment by Vice-President Xi Jinping in Hong Kong in 2008 that the three branches of the government should give each other mutual support and understanding.

Yuen said judicial independence was the cornerstone of rule of law but was not tantamount to 'judicial isolation'.