No fast track for major legal reform

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 June, 2006, 12:00am

There will not be any moves towards constitutional reform or national security legislation in Hong Kong - at least not until the next chief executive takes office, according to Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung.

Speaking in London yesterday, Mr Wong said the government did not plan to bring back Article 23 legislation before Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's current term expired on June 30 next year. Neither was the government planning any new proposals on universal suffrage.

'As the chief executive has already said, there is no timetable for the legislation of national security pursuant to Article 23, and also in the remaining term of the present chief executive the matter will not be raised,' Mr Wong said.

Some mainland legal experts believe that Hong Kong is not ready for universal suffrage because it has not met six criteria, one of which is putting national security legislation in place. Mr Wong's predecessor, Elsie Leung Oi-sie, now vice-chairwoman of the Basic Law Committee, said at the end of last month that the government could bring in Article 23 legislation in phases.

The legislation seeks to prohibit treason, secession, sedition or subversion against the central government, and bars political activities by foreign political groups in the city. Four years ago, the Hong Kong government attempted to rush the legislation through Legco in the face of huge opposition, culminating in a protest march of about 500,000 people on July 1, 2003.

Universal suffrage was not on the agenda, either, Mr Wong said.

'It's unrealistic to expect the commission [on strategic development] to come up with a realistic proposal [on constitutional reform] to put to Legco in the remaining term of the present chief executive,' Mr Wong said, on the last day of his four-day official visit to Britain.

Legco shot down Mr Tsang's first and only constitutional reform package in December.

Mr Wong met British officials including Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney-General for England and Wales and Lord Falconer, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs. He also met with the Law Society and the Bar Council and made a speech at Chatham House.

It was Mr Wong's first overseas trip since his appointment as secretary of justice in October.