Macau 'preparing to enact security bill'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 September, 2008, 12:00am

Macau is preparing a bill to enact the controversial national security law and may table it to legislators by the end of the year, sources say.

Given the expected lack of opposition, there might not be any public consultation before the bill was submitted to the Legislative Assembly, which begins the new legislative year tomorrow, a government source said.

Hong Kong and Macau have the same Article 23 in their Basic Laws. Under their mini-constitutions, both cities must legislate against treason and subversion, based on the article, though no specific timetable has been given.

An Article 23 bill was introduced in Hong Kong in 2002, but triggered a protest by half a million people in July 2003, forcing the legislation to be shelved indefinitely.

Macau Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah said in November that the government planned to complete the legislation by next year. He said in his policy address that Macau people had agreed on the need to uphold the interest of the state.

Mr Ho said the administration would try to bring in a national security law before his term of office ended in December next year.

His comments aroused concerns that Hong Kong might be under pressure to revive its own security legislation. An analyst said the Macau government had kept quiet about Article 23 this year for fear of affecting the Legislative Council election in Hong Kong. It is believed that debates on the issue could have given ammunition to the pan-democrat camp during the election campaign.

A source said Mr Ho would not touch the issue unless pressed by Beijing to enact the security law. 'Mr Ho has said in private that 'we might become a sitting target if we enacted it ahead of Hong Kong'.'

James Sung Lap-kung, political scientist at City University, said the Hong Kong government might face greater pressure to legislate on Article 23 should such a law be passed in Macau. But he added: 'The political ecology of Macau is very different from that of Hong Kong. In Macau, opposition voices are almost unheard in the legislature.'

Macau legislator Jose Coutinho said there were many urgent laws to enact in the forthcoming legislative year. The starting date of the new term has been changed to tomorrow from mid-October because of a hectic schedule.

'I don't see any urgency in bringing in the security law,' he said. 'We should focus on pressing issues such as the need for a union law.'

Many laws in Macau have lagged behind the city's breakneck economic growth in recent years.

Legislator Au Kam-san said the pro-democracy camp, which he represents, would not oppose a national security law based on internationally accepted principles.

The Macau government did not respond to a request for comment.