New subversion law not needed, says Bar

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 January, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 January, 1997, 12:00am

New laws on subversion and secession are unnecessary because existing legislation provides enough safeguards, according to the Bar Association.

In a position paper on the controversial bill submitted to legislators, it spoke against the legislative move to create the two offences.

'Public order is sufficiently safeguarded by a variety of measures and offences including those in the Public Order Ordinance.

'Any concept of 'the state' or configuration of government or territory requires no additional protection and such offences can work against free political debate,' the association said.

'In the event that such offences are created, we believe that it is essential that advocacy of ideas not be criminalised and that use of violence against the person or intended use of violence be an ingredient of the offences,' it added.

The association supports moves to liberalise the law on treason and sedition and it doubts that the offence of sedition should be retained.

'It is unnecessary to provide special protection by legislation for the physical security of the sovereign or head of state by defining any violence or attempt at violence as treason since the ordinary laws will provide protection to any ordinary person and in reality, the degree of protection by security personnel will be much higher than any ordinary person,' the Bar Association said.

The Hong Kong section of the International Commission of Jurists said yesterday that a valid reason was needed to amend the Crimes Bill.

'If the purpose of amending the bill is to pre-empt the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region legislature in creating the offences specified in Article 23 of the Basic Law, we feel it would be a futile and misguided exercise,' it said.

The amendments proposed to sections 2 and 3 concerning offences of treason were unnecessary, it continued.

'Treason is essentially a wartime offence, not invoked in Hong Kong since 1946. In an event, the existing law is quite adequate to deal with any act that imperils the security . . . in the next six months. This cosmetic amendment by itself does not warrant the use of legislative time,' the commisision said.