Edmund Ho to head talks on enacting security law

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 October, 2008, 12:00am

Macau to launch consultation on Article 23 legislation

Macau is gearing up to enact a national security law based on Article 23 of its Basic Law, with a consultation set to begin as early as tomorrow.

Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah will meet community leaders and senior politicians this week to discuss a plan to enact the law, according to Macau newspapers.

The government will release a detailed consultation paper tomorrow and begin a consultation period of four to six weeks, the newspapers reported yesterday. Journal Va Kio quoted an unnamed official as saying violations of the planned national security law could carry a maximum penalty of 25 to 30 years in jail.

The official said such violations would be treated as 'severe crimes' under the planned legislation.

The government is expected to send a bill to the Legislative Assembly by the end of the year, according to the newspapers.

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, triggering a protest by half a million people in July 2003. The legislation was shelved indefinitely. It is believed Macau's successful enactment of such a law would put pressure on Hong Kong to revive its security legislation.

Political commentator Larry So Man-yum said the legislation would do well in Macau given residents' patriotism and their lack of awareness about civil rights. 'There will be absolutely no problem. Compared to Hongkongers, Macau people have high levels of acceptance for the central government.'

He added that no 'broomhead' would emerge in Macau as the security law needed no hard selling by tough officials.

Former Hong Kong official Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, nicknamed broomhead for her hairstyle, attempted to sell Article 23 in 2003.

Legislators Au Kam-san and Ng Kuok-cheong, who lead Macau's pro-democracy camp, said they would not oppose the legislation provided that it was based on internationally accepted principles.

'We don't want to see any mainland-style national security law,' Mr Au said. 'It would be acceptable to enact a law based on the Johannesburg Principles.'

The Johannesburg Principles are a collection of human rights standards adopted by experts in international jurisprudence, security and human rights in 1995.

Macau lawyer Miguel de Senna Fernandes said the use of the national security law should be limited to 'exceptional' cases, and added that a maximum penalty of 30 years in jail for violations was excessive.

Macau's chief executive said last November that the government planned to complete the legislation by next year.