Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie has pledged to stand up to Beijing if it wants Hong Kong to pass laws on sedition and subversion which breach international safeguards on human rights. Ms Leung said there would be a need to 'persuade and explain' if mainland officials disagreed with the government on the legislation to be put in place under Article 23 of the Basic Law. But she doubted whether there would be a major difference of opinion. 'The ultimate decision is with the [Hong Kong] government. If Beijing views that as not the right provision, we would have to explain. If we feel it is the right provision, but Beijing does not agree with it, I believe it is our responsibility to explain to the central people's government and to persuade [it] that this would fulfil the purpose of Article 23,' Ms Leung told the South China Morning Post. This would arise if Beijing wanted laws in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, she said. 'We would have to explain to Beijing that we cannot legislate in accordance with their opinions. But I doubt very much whether this will happen. I doubt there will be a big difference between Hong Kong's views and the views of the central people's government.' It is understood that some of the key issues have already been thrashed out in meetings between Hong Kong and mainland officials. A Department of Justice source said Ms Leung had taken a strong stand. 'Her relations with Chinese officials are not as good as many people expect. You won't believe [how], in a closed-door meeting with those officials in Beijing, she fought very hard for the interests of Hong Kong people,' the source said. Ms Leung would not reveal the content of discussions with the mainland, saying only that the exchanges had been 'very useful'. Article 23 requires Hong Kong to pass laws 'on its own' in relation to treason, sedition, subversion and secession against the central government. Fears have been raised that the laws would restrict rights and be used to crack down on groups like the Falun Gong. Pressure from the mainland for the laws to be enacted has been building in recent weeks. But Ms Leung said: 'The purpose of the legislation is not to target any particular group.' She added that she was not aware of Beijing wanting the laws to be used to crack down on certain organisations. 'I don't think there is actually a threat. I believe the law is there [in case] there is a need to use it,' she said. 'There is no pressing issue. But we have to do it because it is obligatory. We should have done it earlier, but we were engaged on so many other issues.' Ms Leung said there was, however, no need to rush the legislation. The timetable would be for the Security Bureau to decide. 'If they want to rush this in, we would be able to cope with it. Our law-drafting division would have to burn the midnight oil. I don't think there is any need for that.' Ms Leung said the government would consult widely before putting forward the new laws. She suggested that existing laws may be updated and legislation which the British administration unsuccessfully attempted to introduce before the handover - amid criticism from Beijing - could be used as a model. 'We are keeping an open mind,' she said. The UN covenant, which remains in force under the Basic Law, allows restrictions on rights such as freedom of assembly and association on national security grounds. But it contains provisions which should ensure such restrictions are only put in place if absolutely necessary.