image

Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Government ‘should appoint legal experts to map out controversial national security law in Hong Kong’

Raymond Tam’s suggestion came two days after Li Fei said Hong Kong was paying the price for the delay

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 November, 2017, 6:47pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 November, 2017, 11:14pm

The former mainland constitutional affairs minister has urged the Hong Kong government to appoint legal advisers to study how to proceed with the controversial national security legislation.

Raymond Tam Chi-yuen’s suggestion came two days after Li Fei, a senior mainland Chinese official who specialises in the Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, said the city was paying the price for the delay with independence advocates exploiting the situation.

“There is never a good time for something politically sensitive,” Tam said on Saturday. “But a step-by-step process as to absorb the views, worries and suggestions of the public is worth considering.”

Tam, who has recently expressed interest in running as a deputy to the National People’s Congress – China’s national legislative body – called for the government to form a task force led by external legal advisers to study the enactment of Article 23 of the Basic Law, which obliges Hong Kong to enact laws against treason, sedition and subversion.

The issue has been shelved and successive governments have been wary about reviving it after a public backlash during the last attempt to introduce such legislation in 2003, when 500,000 people took to the streets to oppose it.

“As the task force would be formed by non-official members, it has a higher flexibility with a wider interface,” Tam said.

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, an executive councillor advising the city’s leader, argued it was unfair to blame all the problems in Hong Kong on the failure to enact the national security law. Even if Article 23 had been passed in 2003, the problems today could not be prevented merely by the intimidation, Tong said.

He suggested the government consider enacting the national security law and constitutional reform in an alternative way, as to alleviate concerns of Hongkongers.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, speaking separately, also agreed to enact Article 23 in different parts.

Addressing the previous campaigns of handing out fliers and stickers advocating separatism outside secondary schools, Leung said the government chose not to prosecute as they had no confidence in making successful charges under the current criminal laws.

“If [the government] does not prosecute, the problems continue to exist. Students think their actions have not breached any laws,” she said.

She called for a review and amendment of the current laws, saying that could be done before enacting the Article 23 legislation.

Civic Party chairman Alan Leong Kah-kit, also a barrister, said amending the current criminal laws was already enough in safeguarding the national security.

He said there was no appropriate atmosphere in society to enact the contentious Article 23, warning it could backfire if Beijing pressed ahead with the legislation.