LCQ22: Vetting and approval of domestic free TV programme service licence applications
Following is a question by the Hon Frederick Fung and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the Legislative Council meeting today (November 27):
At the Legislative Council meeting on the 6th of this month, a Member of this Council moved a motion under the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance (Cap. 382) to authorise the Panel on Information Technology and Broadcasting to order the Government to produce relevant documents involved in the vetting and approval of domestic free television programme service licence (licence) applications. It has been reported that prior to this, some officials of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (LOCPG) had exerted pressure on some Members of this Council and asked them to vote against the motion. Some Members have admitted that some LOCPG officials had contacted them on the matter, while some Members of the Executive Council (ExCo) and some pro-establishment newspapers have commented that officials of LOCPG are entitled to express to Members their views on the matter. However, Articles 13, 14, 16 and 22 of the Basic Law stipulate respectively that the Central People's Government shall be responsible for foreign affairs and defence, while the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) shall be vested with executive power, and no department etc. of the Central People's Government may interfere in the affairs which the SAR administers on its own. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the criteria based on which the authorities at present define the scope of affairs which the SAR "administers on its own" in accordance with the Basic Law as stipulated in Article 22 of the Basic Law; whether the authorities have formulated any mechanism and criteria to assess if there have been contraventions to such Article; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that, and whether the authorities have assessed if, in the absence of such a mechanism and criteria, the Chief Executive and officials of bureaux will beckon or allow departments of the Central People's Government to interfere in the affairs which the SAR administers on its own for certain reasons (e.g. to garner support from various parties when there are difficulties in governing, to curry favour with officials of the Central Authorities or to pander to the will of the Central Authorities); whether the authorities had uncovered any case of such interference in the past five years; if they had, of the details and follow-up actions taken by the authorities;
(b) whether the Chief Executive, ExCo members and officials of the relevant bureau, etc. had, during the process of the vetting and approval of licence applications, directly or indirectly received views from officials of the Central Government or LOCPG, etc. on the vetting and approval of licence applications; if they had, of the views received and the response and follow-up actions of the authorities, and whether the authorities have assessed if such an action of the mainland officials involved had contravened the Basic Law (including the policy of "One Country, Two Systems" and the principle of "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong" and "a high degree of autonomy" being implemented in Hong Kong); and
(c) whether the Chief Executive, officials of the Office the Chief Executive, ExCo Members and officials of the relevant bureaux have requested assistance from LOCPG in persuading Members of this Council to vote against the aforesaid motion; if they have, of the details and justifications for doing so; if not, whether they have assessed if LOCPG had acted in contravention of the Basic Law (including the policy of "One Country, Two Systems" and the principle of "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong" and "a high degree of autonomy" being implemented in Hong Kong) in making contacts with some Members of this Council; if the assessment outcome is in the affirmative, whether the authorities will express dissatisfaction to the Central People's Government; if they will not, of the reasons for that?
My reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:
(a) According to Article 12 of the Basic Law, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) shall be a local administrative region of the People's Republic of China, which shall enjoy a high degree of autonomy and come directly under the Central People's Government (CPG). Since the establishment of the HKSAR, the Central authorities have been acting in strict accordance with the fundamental principles and policies of "One Country, Two Systems", "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" and a high degree of autonomy, as well as the provisions of the Basic Law in support of the Chief Executive (CE) and the HKSAR Government in administering Hong Kong in accordance with law. All along, the HKSAR Government has also been handling the affairs of Hong Kong in strict accordance with the Basic Law and the "One Country, Two Systems" principle.
(b) On October 15, 2013, the Government announced that, under the gradual and orderly approach in introducing competition into the domestic free television programme service (free TV) market, the CE in Council had decided to grant approval-in-principle to the applications of Fantastic Television Limited and Hong Kong Television Entertainment Company Limited for a free TV licence, and reject Hong Kong Television Network Limited's application (the Decision). Subsequently, the Government has on different occasions publicly explained the assessment criteria and the reasoning leading to the Decision, and has elucidated the 11 relevant factors considered by the CE in Council. The 11 factors are: the three applications for a free TV licence; the recommendation submitted by the Communications Authority (CA); the statutory requirements under the Broadcasting Ordinance (Cap. 562); the assessment criteria in the CA's "Guidance Note for Those Interested in Applying for Domestic Free Television Programme Service Licences in Hong Kong"; sustainability of the free TV market as a whole; the consultant's reports on the impact of introducing new competitors on the competition environment of the free TV market (including the consultant's assessment of the relative competitiveness of each applicant); all representations/responses by relevant parties, and all relevant documents; all relevant latest developments; all public views received; the Government's prevailing broadcasting policy; and public interest. As indicated in the relevant Legislative Council Brief issued on October 15, 2013, the Decision is in conformity with the Basic Law.
(c) One of the responsibilities of the Liaison Office of the CPG in the HKSAR (LOCPG) is to liaise, on behalf of the CPG, with various sectors in the society of Hong Kong, including Legislative Council Members. Offices set up by the CPG in Hong Kong, including LOCPG, shall comply with the basic principles of "One Country, Two Systems", "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" and "a high degree of autonomy" in discharging their responsibilities.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013