Foreign and business envoys hail decision to take more time

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 September, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 5:52pm

Foreign envoys and business chambers generally welcomed the withdrawal of the Article 23 bill, saying it was a wise step to concentrate on the economy while consulting the public on the issue.

US Consul-General James Keith said it was more important to establish a dialogue on the bill between the Hong Kong government and the public.

'This will be an issue that the chief executive and all of his senior advisers will want to explore with the Hong Kong people,' he said.

When asked whether withdrawing the bill would help rebuild investor confidence in Hong Kong, Mr Keith said the current business environment was already promising.

Both the US and British governments had earlier raised concerns that the bill in its original form could pose threats to human rights and civil liberties.

A spokeswoman for the British consulate also welcomed the withdrawal of the bill. 'We are pleased that the government has said that it intends to allow sufficient time for the community to study the question of enactment of the legislation. We hope that there will be the widest possible consultation before legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law is reintroduced into the Legislative Council,' she said.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said the move showed the government's willingness to heed public opinion.

'Hong Kong is at a crucial point in its development and the decision to focus on the economy is wise,' it said.

'There is no doubt that the shelving of Article 23 legislation will alleviate concerns that may have existed for international investors.'

The Australian Chamber of Commerce said it was pleased that the Hong Kong government was making the economy its priority.

Chan Wing-kee, president of the Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong, said the government had made a wise move.

'Revitalising Hong Kong's economy is the overriding concern of the whole community,' he said. 'Economic woes are the major source of public grievances and the problem will be resolved if the economy picks up in the near future.'

Mr Chan, who is a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said the legislative process for the national security laws should be deferred until after next year's Legco election.