Legal experts and human rights groups yesterday insisted Beijing must keep its hands off any sedition laws to be enacted in Hong Kong, saying the Secretary for Justice's pledge to defend the territory's interests should not have been necessary. They spoke out after Elsie Leung Oi-sie told the South China Morning Post that she would stand up to Beijing over the issue if need be. The Basic Law already provided for Hong Kong to enact such legislation 'on its own', without interference, they said. In an interview with the Post published yesterday, Miss Leung said there would be a need to 'persuade and explain' to Beijing officials if they disagreed with certain provisions. Chinese University's Professor Michael Davis, a human rights and constitutional law specialist, said he was disturbed that Miss Leung had to defend Hong Kong's stance in the first place. 'Article 23 specifically states that Hong Kong shall enact laws on its own,' he said. 'I'm a little concerned that there have been intense meetings in which mainland officials are interfering with enactment of this legislation.' Professor Davis said he applauded Miss Leung's efforts to 'explain Hong Kong's position' but suggested: 'Perhaps we are consulting too much on the content of this.' University of Hong Kong law faculty dean Johannes Chan Man-mun said it was important for the territory to remain vigilant on legislation relating to Article 23 of the Basic Law which deals with treason, sedition and subversion. 'I welcome her stance on this, but it really depends on what law the government here drafts,' Professor Chan said. 'If you enact a draconian law or just transplant Chinese law here, you are not protecting the interests of Hong Kong, are you?' Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai echoed Professor Chan's remarks, adding that the seeds of a restrictive Article 23 law could come from the Hong Kong government itself, even if Beijing did not interfere. 'Just look at the legislation on anti-terrorism,' he said. 'I think if the Secretary for Justice is sincere, the government can draw on the views of human rights and legal experts in the community at an early stage instead of consulting China first and then us.' Professor Chan and Professor Davis said there was still a need to consider whether existing laws already covered the concerns raised by Article 23. 'My view is that existing law is enough,' Professor Chan said. Professor Davis said there was no indication of the urgency for a law on sedition, given the lack of a threat Hong Kong posed to the mainland. He said mainland laws on subversion should not be imported.