D.A.B. calls for copyright bill to be shelved

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2012, 12:00am


The largest political party in the Legislative Council will ask the government to shelve its controversial copyright bill and listen to public opinion, raising the possibility that the bill will not be debated before the current legislative term ends in mid-July.

Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the government-loyalist Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said he would suggest the government 'shelve [the bill's] second and third reading ... since many lawmakers have raised their doubts and the public has also raised concerns. Why not listen to them and think of a better way to alleviate their worries?'

He admits there may not be time for the present government to address the concerns and bring the bill back to Legco before its term ends. He will put his concerns to the government at a meeting today.

Political observers said Tam's move was made with September's Legislative Council election in mind, and with one eye on the need to deal with pressing matters such as the long-awaited competition law and the government restructuring proposed by chief-executive-elect Leung Chun-ying.

The copyright amendment ordinance has been dubbed the 'Article 23 of the cyberworld', after the national security legislation, withdrawn following massive protests in 2003. The bill aims to criminalise all copyright infringement, rather than just infringements for profit or which lead to significant damage.

Albert Chan Wai-yip, the People Power lawmaker, has filed more than 1,300 amendments to the bill, prompting Legco's House Committee, which sets the legislature's agenda, to request a postponement of the second and third readings of the bill, originally due at a full council meeting on Wednesday next week.

Chan filed a similar number of amendments to an elections bill, due for its second and third readings today, which would ban lawmakers who resign mid-term from standing in by-elections.

It was introduced in response to the 'de facto referendum' on universal suffrage, in which a group of pan-democrat lawmakers resigned to force by-elections.

He told a radio interviewer that it would take 500 hours to discuss all the amendments and hinted at knock-on effects, including delaying Leung's government restructuring.

'[The administration] has to postpone the [readings of the] copyright bill, otherwise it will affect the funding proposal for the new government structure,' Chan said.

Leung yesterday urged lawmakers to do their jobs, and warned that delaying the government reshuffle would defer the implementation of policies that 'many people are waiting for', such as action on housing. He called on lawmakers to pass the bill before he took office on July 1, and said Hong Kong risked lagging behind its neighbours without action.

'For a long time, we have seen our social and economic development becoming slower and slower. I hope the services we need to provide to our citizens, including public housing and economic development, will not be deferred because the matter [is in Legco],' Leung said.

James Sung Lap-kung, a political commentator and City University academic, said it would be difficult for lawmakers and the government to scrutinise the amendments to the electoral laws, the copyright laws and the government restructuring as well as legislation for the long-awaited competition bill before Legco's term ended. Laws that are not passed by the end of Legco's term will have to be presented for debate again by Leung's administration.

'The government has to make a choice ... Tam Yiu-chung has delivered a clear signal to the administration,' Sung said. He expected the government would make a decision in the coming few days.

Professor Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University, said Tam might have September's election on his mind in urging the government to shelve the copyright bill.

Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said her party 'will not filibuster just for the sake of it'.

Legco president Tsang Yok-sing said the Legco Secretariat could not handle the paperwork related to the huge number of amendments within the time. For that reason, the government might have to postpone the second reading of the copyright bill.