Public urged to express views on Article 23

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 February, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 February, 2003, 12:00am

The public must be involved in the debate on national security laws, legislators said on the eve of the first reading of the blue bill.

The lawmakers urged people to let them know their views so they could vote according to popular opinion rather than along party lines.

Democratic Party members are due to put forward a motion after the first reading today asking the government to withdraw the bill and slamming the compendium of submissions compiled by the Security Bureau at the end of the consultation period.

The motion, to be moved by Sin Chung-kai, condemns the bureau for compiling the submissions in a 'slipshod, incomplete and inequitable manner, distorting the views expressed by the public and organisations'. It urges an analysis by an independent organisation.

The first reading is just the formal introduction of the bill. A House Committee meeting on Friday will vote to set up a bills committee to study it. Legislators can then volunteer to be on the committee. Many members expect a record number of legislators to volunteer, particularly since the chairman of the committee - an important position - is elected by a majority vote.

Independent lawmaker Audrey Eu Yuet-mee said: 'On previous occasions such as the anti-terrorism bill and the civil service pay cut, there have been more than 30 members on the bills committee, so I expect there will be more on this one.'

She said it was important people came forward and represented their views to the bills committee.

Frontier legislators Emily Lau Wai-hing and Lee Cheuk-yan said the pro-government camp would always have enough votes to do the government's bidding and it was up to the public to make a difference.

'Members will be affected by what happens outside the council and this depends on the determination of the people,' Ms Lau said. 'If people are unhappy with the bill and you have a very strong show of force, everybody will have to listen. If the people are determined, nothing is impossible.'

Democrat legislator James To Kun-sun said the party was still pushing for the government to withdraw the bill because of a lack of public support.

'The government was asked to delay the first reading until one month after the blue bill was gazetted to allow the public to have more time to think, but they refused even that,' he said. 'I believe many people are furious.'

The Civil Human Rights Front, a coalition of 43 organisations, held a candle-light vigil at Chater Gardens last night.