'Justice done' despite lack of subversion law

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 March, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 March, 2000, 12:00am

The Department of Justice has experienced no difficulties in its prosecution work even though an anti-subversion law has not been introduced.

'We've been able to deal with the situation over the past 2.5 years without any great difficulty,' the director of Public Prosecutions Grenville Cross SC said yesterday during a briefing on his division's work during the past year.

The Government is currently studying issues relating to anti-subversion laws.

Article 23 of the Basic Law says the SAR Government shall enact laws to prohibit acts of treason, secession, sedition and subversion, which is a concept not found in the common law. Mr Cross said the issue was something the Government had to look at carefully.

Asked if there was any urgent need to implement the law if there had been no difficulties in pursuing prosecutions without such a law, Mr Cross replied: 'This is obviously not something which could be left hanging in the air forever.

'Article 23 is there and it is something to which attention needs to be given.

'No decision is going to be rushed into. It's a sensitive issue and there will be a full consultation.' However, he refused to be specific on any timetable for when the public would be consulted.

It is understood legislation will be submitted to the legislature after the September elections.

There has been speculation that Tung Chee-hwa will legislate on it to fulfil a promise made when he ran for the Chief Executive's post in late 1996.

He promised his voters, the 400 members of the Selection Committee, that he would introduce legislation in the first SAR legislature.

'It is likely he will introduce it in the second legislature as there is not much time left before the first legislature comes to an end in June,' one member of the Selection Committee said.

'If he does not do something on it, how can he fulfil his promise and convince his voters to vote for him again for a second term?' Emily Lau Wai-hing of The Frontier reiterated there was no need to legislate against acts of subversion.

'There is no such concept in the common law and we do not know how it will be defined,' she said.

'Authors, journalists, non-government organisations and politicians may fear their rights would be restricted. We cannot accept anything leading to a step backwards.'