Bar Association gives warning

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 July, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 July, 2003, 12:00am

It says the security bill has serious defects and lacks broad consensus

The Hong Kong Bar Association yesterday warned against any move to put the proposed national security legislation to the vote on Wednesday and claimed the legislative process had been compromised for political expediency.

The association urged the government to postpone the vote. 'The Bar deplores any decision to resume the second reading of the bill. [It] regrets that the integrity of the legislative process has yielded to political expediency,' it said.

It is the strongest statement yet issued by the legal body on the proposed Article 23 legislation.

In the wake of Tuesday's massive street protest, in which the legal profession took part, the association warned against enacting a law which it says has serious defects and lacks broad consensus.

It said there was no urgency or justification to require immediate enactment of the legislation.

'Should the government decide to resume the second reading of the bill on July 9, it will result in the enactment of a legislation not only riddled with serious flaws and defects, but also one that lacks a broad consensual support from the community.'

The Bar Association argued that some legal concepts and definitions in the bill remained imprecise. 'The bill represents a real threat to the rights and freedoms of the residents of Hong Kong, in particular to the freedom of political expression and of seeking information through the media.

'One may be left in doubt as to whether one's conduct would have infringed the law.'

The association said consultations had been rushed and the public had been denied full participation in scrutinising the bill.

The group criticised official claims that the bill's enactment was a constitutional duty to protect national security with legislation. It maintained that the proscription of groups affiliated with bodies banned on the mainland and the proposed changes to the official secrets ordinance were not required by the Basic Law under Article 23.