New look at security bill in September

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 July, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 July, 2003, 12:00am

September set for new security bill consultation

A second round of public consultation on Hong Kong's National Security Bill will be launched in September, lawmakers were told yesterday. But hopes for the bill to be drastically altered, possibly in the shape of a so-called white bill, appear likely to be dashed.

The timeframe for the exercise was unveiled yesterday by acting Permanent Secretary for Security Timothy Tong Hin-ming, after Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa last week announced the decision to launch a new round.

Despite calls for a white bill to be issued for future consultation, Mr Tong told the Bills Committee the new round would be in the form of a 'consultation paper' which would comprise the full text of the blue bill and incorporate the 54 amendments made by the government since it was first published in January.

These will include the three last-minute concessions made by the government a few days after the July 1 mass protest against the government and the legislation.

While saying the government was willing to listen to legislators' views, Mr Tong said it would adhere to the five basic criteria outlined by Mr Tung during his July 17 media briefing, including the government's stance that it has a duty to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law.

'The consultation will be based on the foundation of the legislative work done already and a thorough consultation will be carried out,' he said, adding the schedule of the legislative process would depend on the progress of the consultation.

There are no plans to conduct a survey of public opinion on the bill.

Although no time limit was set for the consultation exercise, the government suggested Legco's Bills Committee discuss the consultation paper following its release, Mr Tong said.

The consultation proposal has drawn criticism from some lawmakers, who attacked the government for failing to issue a white bill, which would make the precise wording of the proposed laws against treason, subversion, sedition and secession available for public consultation.

They also doubt the future consultation will be impartial and comprehensive.

But a motion moved by unionist legislator Lee Cheuk-yan calling on the government to withdraw the blue bill was voted down 15 to 12.

The Security Bureau had claimed majority support for the proposed Article 23 legislation, based on submissions, including standard letters, from organisations and individuals. But later analysis by independent academics found public opinion was sharply divided.

The Democratic Party's Martin Lee Chu-ming said the government should issue a white bill if it really wanted genuine consultation. 'Otherwise, it will only be a fake consultation ... people will take to the streets again,' he said.

Independent legislator Audrey Eu Yuet-mee also urged the administration to make clear the method of analysis, scope of consultation and its content.

Mr Tong said the government had no plan to conduct a survey to gauge whether the public supported enactment of the laws.