Amending other laws could pave the way for Hong Kong national security legislation
Lawmakers encouraged to present ideas to enact the controversial Article 23 to avoid repeat of 2003 uproar
Amendments could gradually be made to existing laws to enact Article 23 of the Basic Law on national security legislation, Hong Kong’s former justice minister Elsie Leung Oi-sie said.
Leung, also vice-chairwoman of the Basic Law Committee under the National People’s Congress, yesterday suggested lawmakers float their own ideas on how to enact Article 23.
Leung said it could minimise conflict in the legislature because it would not be the government presenting a proposal for discussion. She cited the events of 2003 when half a million people took to the streets to oppose the legislation, forcing it to be scrapped.
“The government may have been too rushed to present so many complex laws for public discussion in 2003. The public was not able to understand them.”
Leung said amendments could be made to the Crimes Ordinance, Public Order Ordinance, Societies Ordinance and other laws to achieve the purpose of prohibiting any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion and theft of state secrets as required under Article 23.
Article 23 was raised earlier this month by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying after Beijing issued an interpretation of the Basic Law in response to the pro-independence and separatist drive and a controversial oath-taking saga in the legislature.
The controversy started when Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching declared allegiance to the “Hong Kong nation” and pronounced China as “Chee-na” – similar to a derogatory term used by Japan during the second world war.
Legal experts said section two of the Crimes Ordinance did concern “treason”, but it only related to acts against the United Kingdom, not Hong Kong’s government. The section was not revised after the 1997 handover.
Former security minister Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who was in charge of enacting Article 23 in 2003, said the government’s past proposals were to amend local laws, not to draft a new one.
She said the Crimes Ordinance at present did not tackle subversion of state and secession, but additional clauses could be added.
Former Bar Association chairman Alan Leong Kah-kit, who opposed Article 23 in 2003, said now was not the time to discuss the enactment.
He said if a dose of poison was lethal, splitting it into 10 small doses and taking them one by one would still be lethal.
Additional reporting by Tony Cheung