Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Friday, July 18, 2003

Tung Chee Hwa Responds to HK Residents' Concerns

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa said Thursday that his government has a duty to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law and the schedule of the entire legislative process will depend on how the consultation goes.


Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa said Thursday that his government has a duty to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law and the schedule of the entire legislative process will depend on how the consultation goes.

He made the remarks at a press conference at the Conference Hall of Central Government Offices.

He said his government is seriously reviewing and looking at the Hong Kong residents aspirations and concerns with a view to learning from the experience.

He said: "We are also actively preparing in time to respond to their aspirations and their concerns. One thing I am going to do is to meet the various political parties, major sectors of the community, the media and opinion leaders regularly. I shall keep in touch with citizens through various means to listen to their voices directly."

Regarding Article 23 of the Basic Law, he said although the consultative and legislative process has been under way for nearly a year, many of the citizens still do not understand the contents.

He said, the government has thus decided it is necessary to put forward the bill to the whole community for consultation again. Based on the foundation of the legislative work done already, this consultation exercise will be even more extensive than the previous one. The government will compile a full text of the Bill incorporating all the amendments proposed by the government and discuss it with Legislative Council members at the Bills Committee. Meanwhile, dialogue with the public and concerned organizations will be reopened to listen to their views.

He emphasized that the purpose of this round of consultation isto win the maximum understanding and support of the community as a whole for this legislation.

He said his government is taking advantage of the new opportunities brought about by mainland-Hong Kong closer economic partners arrangements (CEPA) and the enhanced co-operation with Guangdong Province to formulate short and medium-term policy initiatives so as to step up the region's economic restructuring.

He stressed that during his duty visit to Beijing on Saturday he will make a further request to the central government to speed up the schedule for the implementation of various arrangements under CEPA.

He promised that he will continue to respond to residents' concerns in the days and weeks to come. Through concrete measures, "we will formulate policies from the standpoint of the people."

He said: "Our response to the aspirations of the public will honor our promise to reflect properly the concerns and expectations of our people. It will also be conducive to safeguarding a stable and long-lasting relationship between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland within the framework of 'One Country, Two Systems'."

New record with 300,000 unemployed
Some 300,000 people were out of work in Hong Kong during the three months ending June 30 - translating into a record 8.6 per cent unemployment rate.

The SARS outbreak was blamed for battering an already weak economy - but officials warned the situation was not likely to get better any time soon.

However, economists forecast that unemployment will stabilize in the last quarter of the year.

The seasonally adjusted underemployment rate increased to 4.3 per cent in the April-June period from 3.8 per cent in the March-May period, the latest labour force data from the Census and Statistics Department shows.

The unemployment rate rose more noticeably in the restaurant and hotel, wholesale and retail trade, transport, and amusement and recreational services sectors.

The new graduates leaving school are likely to add more pressure, Stephen Ip, secretary for Economic Development and Labour, said.

But Ip said "there are signs of gradual revival in overall business activity" and he expected improvement in the employment situation in the last quarter.

The tourism industry has seen a pick-up after SARS was brought under control in May.

The number of visitors and hotel occupancy rates have improved over the past few weeks.

In July, there was an average of 80,000 visitors to Hong Kong a day, compared to 40,000 in June and 20,000 in May, Ip said.

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