Protest rules sensible to most: Regina Ip

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 November, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 November, 2000, 12:00am

Most people think the controversial assembly law is sensible and reasonable, according to security chief Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee.

The Secretary for Security said only a few people had aired 'radical' opinions over the Public Order Ordinance. But she stressed the Government would continue to listen to opinions from different groups.

'The majority of people think we need to have a regulatory system on assemblies and demonstrations and they agree the current system is sensible and reasonable. It seems this is the view of the majority.

'The Government, of course, has confidence and faith that its policy is reasonable. But at the same time, we will listen to views from different people.

'There have only been a few people airing some radical opinions before I sponsor a motion debate [on the ordinance] in the Legislative Council. I am glad to widen the scope of discussion through the upcoming debate,' she said after a Heung Yee Kuk meeting on the ordinance.

Her remarks come ahead of the Legco debate on December 20 on whether controls over public assembly should be eased.

Pro-Beijing groups have appeared to be mobilising to defend the laws, with only five of about 100 submissions to Legco urging a review of the ordinance. Most of the others were prepared by pro-Beijing groups.

Democrat legislator James To Kun-sun said Mrs Ip had shown her bias by branding opposition to the ordinance as 'radical'. 'It is very problematic. I cast doubt on whether she really wants to listen to public opinion.

'I don't know where she gets her impression from. The Government may like to listen to those so-called groups from all walks of life. But we all know what these groups really are. They may have no idea what they are supporting.

'Those opposing the ordinance have done very detailed research on the ordinance. If she thinks they are radical, she must have determined things from a political point of view,' he said.

Student groups and some legislators have staged a series of demonstrations against the ordinance, which they say violates human rights. Under the ordinance, police have to be notified seven days in advance to give permission for marches involving more than 30 people. Seven days' notice is needed for assemblies of more than 50.

Basic Law Committee member Maria Tam Wai-chu said the ordinance was in line with the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights Ordinance.

She said the police would face more pressure enforcing the law if control over public assemblies was relaxed.

Ms Tam, a National People's Congress local deputy, said the ordinance struck a balance between freedom of expression and maintaining public order.

She rejected a proposal by human rights groups to set up an independent committee to deal with assembly applications, saying it would overlap the administration's work.