§ Mr. Peter Bottomley
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Green Paper on the further development of representative government in Hong Kong to be published by the Hong Kong Government on 18 July.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
The Hong Kong Government are today publishing a Green Paper on the further development of representative government in the territory. Copies of this paper have been placed in Library of the House. the main aims of the proposals are: to develop progressively a system of government, the authority for which is clearly rooted in Hong Kong, which is able to represent authoritatively the views of the people of Hong Kong and which is more directly accountable to the people of Hong Kong; to build this system on the existing institutions which have served Hong Kong well, and as far as possible to preserve their best features; and to allow for further development if that should be the wish of the Hong Kong community. This gradual approach builds on existing and well tried systems, rather than attempting a more radical approach with its attendant risks during a sensitive period of transition in the life of the territory.
The Green Paper proposes that arrangements should be introduced to provide for a substantial number of Unofficial Members of the Legislative Council to be elected indirectly by an electoral college composed of all members of the Urban Council, the new Regional Council, and the district Boards, and by specified functional constituencies. To start with, these arrangements should be introduced in two stages — in 1985 and 1988 — following the District Board elections in those years. In 1989, after the 1988 elections to the Council have taken place, there should be a review of the position with a view to deciding what further developments should be pursued.
The paper also proposes that the majority of the appointed Unofficial Members of the Executive Council should be replaced progressively by members elected by the Unofficial Members of Legislative Council from among their number, but a small number of members should continue to be appointed by the governor and the four ex-officio members should remain as members of the Council. These arrangements should be introduced in two stages—in 1988 and 1991—following the elections to the Legislative Council in those years. Finally, the paper proposes that, in due course, the Governor should be replaced in his capacity as president of the Legislative Council by a presiding officer elected by the Unofficial Members of the Legislative Council from among their own number. This paper does not, however, make proposals relating to the other functions of the Governor.
In the view of Her Majesty's Government, those proposals are well designed to enhance the representative status of Hong Kong's central government institutions and to give the Hong Kong people a stronger voice in the administration of the territory in years to come. The people of Hong Kong will now be putting forward their views, which will be taken into account in a subsequent White Paper.
§ Mr. Hal Miller
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what arrangements are 202W proposed to assess the acceptability to the people of Hong Kong of any agreement on the future of the territory; and if he will make a statement.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
As we have often made clear, we attach great importance to assessing the views of the people of Hong Kong on any agreement we may reach with the Chinese Government on the future of the territory. I have today placed in the Library of the House details of the methods we propose to use to do this. Briefly we envisage that the agreement will be published in both Hong Kong and the United Kingdom and that the people of Hong Kong will be invited to comment on it. A special office will be set up under the authority of the Governor of Hong Kong which will collate and assess all views which it receives on the agreement and produce a final report which will be published. It is also proposed that a small independent team should be appointed to monitor the work of the assessment office. The team will confirm in its report, which will also be published, whether it is satisfied with the way the assessment office has discharged its duties.
There has been discussion recently about the possibility of using a referendum to assess the acceptability of an agreement to the people of Hong Kong. In the view of the Government this would have very real drawbacks. In the special political circumstances of Hong Kong, it is important to avoid the risk of provoking factional divisions or disturbances which could themselves leave the result of a referendum open to real doubt. Moreover, there are practical objections related to the low rates of registration in Hong Kong since the introduction of universal franchise in 1982. The Government firmly believe that a process of consultation through the well-developed channels familiar to the Hong Kong people would be the best way to provide the full assessment of the range and quality of opinion on this complex issue which I believe Parliament would expect as a basis for its own deliberations.