'Subversive acts' causing rift

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 October, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 October, 1993, 12:00am

CHINA and Britain are embroiled in a new controversy over the issue of ''subversive acts'' after reports from Beijing suggested subversive legislators would not be eligible to ride the through-train to 1997.

Executive Councillor Professor Edward Chen Kwan-yiu revealed yesterday the British side suggested in the last round of Sino-British talks all legislators could board the through-train after taking an oath to uphold the Basic Law.

But he said the suggestion had been rejected by the Chinese, who insisted the Preparatory Committee for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SARPC) should reserve the right of admission.

Legislators called for a ''clear explanation'' of the word ''subversive'', while the Preliminary Working Committee (PWC) said it had not yet decided whether to place the issue on its agenda.

''A court will consider this issue by some precedent cases and other factors. But if this is not judged by a court but by a preparatory committee, then there will be a lot of political factors,'' said Professor Chen.

But Xinhua (the New China News Agency) deputy director Zhang Junsheng said the committee should have the right of confirmation of who should board the through-train.

''This is the decision of the SARPC, isn't it? It should not be taken to the court for judgment,'' he said.

While Professor Chen agreed with remarks made by the deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Chen Ziying, that no government nor country would allow those committing subversive acts in its legislature, he warned the word ''subversive''would be difficult to define.

''There is still a controversy in United States over whether burning the national flag is a subversive act,'' he said.

Professor Chen said it would be hard to determine whether burning the Basic Law was a subversive act.

Basic Law drafter Raymond Wu Wai-yeung shared Professor Chen's views: ''If a child burns the Basic Law, has he committed subversive activity?'' United Democrats legislator Yeung Sum said the word ''subversive'' should not be defined by a political organisation but by an independent court.

PWC member Tam Yiu-chung said the word needed further discussion by its political sub-group.

Meanwhile, reacting to a report that next month's 16th round of Sino-British talks would be the last and Governor Chris Patten would push ahead with his reform package, Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Michael Sze Cho-cheung said the issue would be decided by the British Government at next week's special meeting in London.

He was speaking after a meeting with British Ambassador to Beijing Sir Robin McLaren, Mr Patten and top Government officials yesterday.

Beijing rejected the deadline warning with Mr Zhang accusing the British side of pressurising the Chinese side.

''If they want to pressure us by setting a deadline for the talks and then claiming that the 16th round of talks will be the last, they won't make us nervous. That is not effective,'' Mr Zhang said.