Activists hit back at Security Minister
The security minister is under fire from one of the city's biggest activist groups after blaming 'agreement-breaking' demonstrators for causing conflict in Sunday's thousands-strong rally over the death of mainland dissident Li Wangyang.
Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong - who also said on RTHK yesterday that he regretted the Article 23 national security law had not been passed in his term - said some protesters had 'failed to observe the agreements reached between organisers and [the police] ... leading to obstructions'.
Police say some 200 demonstrators rushed into Connaught Road West, which leads to the central government's liaison office, without permission. They occupied lanes jammed with cars, walking between buses and taxis and causing the road to be closed for several hours.
The marchers - estimated at 25,000 by the coalition of 30 activist groups that organised the event and at 5,400 by the police - had earlier been channelled into a narrow pedestrian route leading to the office.
Lee did not specify what agreements had been broken.
Lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the Alliance in Support of the Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, a frequent organiser of demonstrations, rejected the charges. 'Many times there isn't really any agreement. They simply arbitrarily impose conditions on us,' he said.
Sunday's demonstration was held to demand an official investigation by the central government into the suspicious death of Tiananmen dissident Li in a Hunan hospital last week. The official claim that Li committed suicide has been widely rejected.
Serving his final couple of weeks in office, Lee said it was regrettable that the fervently-opposed national security law stipulated under Article 23 of the Basic Law had not been passed since he took office in 2003.
Lee replaced Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a firm supporter of the now-shelved bill, who resigned amid a public outcry against it that included a 500,000-strong July 1 march.
He agreed with Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying that the legislation should be reintroduced after a consensus is achieved in support of it. But 'to ensure national security is totally distinct from constitutional reforms', he rejected suggestions that the law should wait until the chief executive and Legislative Council are elected by everyone.
Democratic Party vice-chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said it was lucky Lee was leaving now. Dismissing any need for the legislation, she said: 'The next administration has enough to deal with.'
Lee rejected claims that stricter rules were to appease Beijing and asked people to imagine protesters throwing objects into their homes.
Responding to calls for a flowerbed outside the liaison office to be demolished to make room for more protesters, Lee said the area, about half the size of a badminton court, was important to residents.
'I can't see how [its removal] would bring any positive impact on security maintenance.'
Lee, a former director of immigration and commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, said the next bureau secretary should have had experience with the disciplined services.