UN is told proposals are shameful

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 November, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 November, 2002, 12:00am

A rights watchdog yesterday submitted a report on the SAR's 'shameful' proposals on treason, sedition, subversion and secession to the United Nations human rights committee in session in Geneva.

Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor warned legislation of the kind proposed in the Article 23 consultation paper would be likely to do 'severe damage' to Hong Kong's free press, quality of life and economic ties with Taiwan. It could also damage confidence in the SAR overseas. It questioned why the Government was in a rush to legislate on the topics despite the economic downturn - while the economy had been cited as a reason not to enact laws against racism.

The consultation document states that 'all countries around the world' have express provisions to prevent and punish crimes which endanger sovereignty and state security, but the Monitor's report says the claim is misleading. 'Most countries do not have the range of crimes proposed in this document. Few have express laws against secession. Many countries do not have laws against subversion,' it states.

It also noted most common law countries were democratic, with powerful constraints on government power.

The Monitor report drew attention to papers which it said were quoted in the consultation document out of context in order to support Article 23 laws. These included a Canadian Law Reform Commission paper.

'The consultation document omits to mention the conclusion of this working paper which was that the offence of sedition should be entirely abolished as being incompatible with modern concepts of freedom of speech,' the watchdog said.

The Monitor's report said that plans to criminalise failure to report treason were unnecessary, adding that there had been no prosecution under such a law in England since 1820.

The report also opposed making communication between the Hong Kong and mainland governments confidential unless it related to security, intelligence, defence or international relations.