Further talks on snooping law ruled out

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 February, 2006, 12:00am

The government will not hold any more consultations over legislation covering covert surveillance operations, the security minister said last night.

In an interview with veteran political heavyweight Allen Lee Peng-fei on Cable TV, Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong said there would be no further public consultation on the legislation, which would be presented to lawmakers in the next few weeks.

On Thursday, Mr Justice Michael Hartmann ruled that such methods of gathering evidence by law enforcement agencies had no legal basis, despite an order by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen last year.

But he gave the government six months to get its house in order.

'The proposed legislation has been drawn up after taking in some of the views we have collected from the legislators, the Law Society and other people in the past few months,' Mr Lee said.

Speaking on Commercial Radio earlier in the day, Mr Lee said he was confident the legislation would become law within the six-month grace period, but he would not rule out seeking an extension.

'In theory, we can ask the court to extend the six-month grace period but this is something we don't want to see,' he said.

In an RTHK radio forum, Law Society president Peter Lo Chi-lik said the government had to resolve legal issues arising out of collecting evidence through covert surveillance, and warned lawmakers against rushing through legislation.

'Legco should take care of these questions while legislating. However, even when we are engaged in emergency legislation, the content of the legislation has to be more important than the speed.'

The chairman of the Local Inspectors' Association, Tony Liu Kit-ming, said he hoped legislators would pass the law as soon as possible or public safety could be compromised.

'If the legislation is not passed in time, we will lose our most basic means of protecting the internal safety of Hong Kong,' the chairman said.