PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 March, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 March, 2003, 12:00am

Having already stirred up much public debate and controversy, Article 23 has now been presented to the Legislative Council in the form of the National Security Bill.

I would add to this important debate by highlighting the potential damage to long-term economic prosperity if a law such as Article 23 is enacted even though it is scarcely understood or appreciated by the average citizen.

A recent study by Berkowitz, Pistor and Richard (European Economic Review) provides clear evidence that the overall effectiveness of legal institutions and, in particular, long-term economic development will be compromised when legal rules are neither understood nor 'appreciated by domestic law makers, law enforcers, and economic agents, who are the final consumers of these rules'.

While the effectiveness of our legal institutions is one of Hong Kong's important comparative advantages over neighbours, it is likely this effectiveness will be reduced by the speed at which the SAR government has pursued the enactment of Article 23 and the arrogance displayed by some high officials.

The message is clear: unless the new law is well understood and appreciated by the average citizen, it will come back to haunt us for many years to come.

SAM TANG HAK-KAN, Department of Economics, Chinese University