Plans to allow protests to be banned on the grounds of protecting national security were condemned by the Government yesterday. The criticism came in a statement on the unveiling of the Chief Executive-designate's plans to restrict civil liberties. 'Unless those responsible for the consultation paper can point to specific situations in which there is a real and legitimate need for public processions to be prohibited on these grounds, the proposal is unacceptable,' the Government said. It also denounced the claim that decisions made for reasons of national security could be challenged in court. 'Case law establishes that national security is the exclusive responsibility of the executive and that it is generally a non-justiciable question,' it argued. The Government pointed out that the pre-1995 Public Order Ordinance - before draconian, colonial powers were removed - did not invoke national security in this way or 'the protection of public health or morals, the protection of the rights and freedoms of others'. There was no justification in the consultation document for the new grounds, which confer sweeping and undefined new powers on the police to ban demonstrations, the Government said. There was serious risk the inclusion of such broad grounds would allow political considerations to enter decision-making. Incidents cited in the consultation paper - such as a protest at the Japanese Consulate and blocking of traffic - were isolated and the police dealt with them under existing powers, the Government added. More than 1,000 public meetings and processions had been held since the ordinance was changed in 1995. 'The police did not need to prohibit any one of them and only one organiser of a public procession found it necessary to resort to the appeal mechanism,' said the statement. The proposed requirement that protest organisers get a notice of no objection from police was also criticised. It would mean there was no right to hold a public procession, however peaceful, 'merely a privilege that may be exercised only if the police do not object'.