Lawmakers last night rejected a non-binding motion condemning proposed anti-subversion legislation as a threat to rights and freedom, in the latest chapter of a controversy that has sparked international concern. The move to defeat the pro-democracy motion indicates the government has already secured enough support in the legislature for the bill's likely safe passage before July next year. A mildly-worded amendment by the Liberal Party was also voted down, under the split voting rule which requires it to be endorsed separately by members from functional and geographical constituencies. The proposals are aimed at implementing requirements of Article 23 of the Basic Law, banning acts of treason, sedition, subversion and theft of state secrets. The government will table a bill to Legco in February for approval, after putting together views received during a three-month consultation period ending on Christmas Eve. The US, Britain and governments in Europe have expressed concerns, along with human rights groups, media bodies and legal experts. Although the focus of the motion, moved by Democrat James To Kun-sun, was on the threat to rights, lawmakers concentrated their firepower on personal attacks made during the two-day debate. On Wednesday, Leung Fu-wah of the pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions accused the Democrats of having 'character splits', and the head of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, of being a 'pathological saint' for opposing the proposal. His comments were condemned by pro-democracy lawmakers. Citing a biblical verse, Democrat Cheung Man-kwong compared Bishop Zen to overseas church leaders who speak out against injustice. 'Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? The path Bishop Zen was treading was a path of saints,' he said, saying Mr Leung had brought shame upon the legislature. Both Emily Lau Wai-hing, of The Frontier, and independent Audrey Eu Yuet-mee criticised Mr Leung for his attack on Bishop Zen. 'You should not use this council's privilege to resort to personal attacks,' Ms Lau said. Speaking outside the chamber, Mr Leung refused to withdraw his accusation and maintained that Bishop Zen should not 'incite' followers to oppose the proposal. Bishop Zen, who has said the proposal would affect religious freedom, said yesterday: 'Take no notice of him, he said I have dementia . . . Is he a doctor? I might need his treatment. It is no use responding to personal attacks.' In the debate, both the pro-democracy camp and the DAB recited their positions, formed since the government announced the proposal in September. Martin Lee Chu-ming, former leader of the Democrats, said the law would introduce mainland standards into the SAR. 'We should send this devil back to hell,' he said. But Chan Kam-lam, of the DAB, said Mr Lee's attempt to raise the issue on the international stage was 'inviting invasion' from foreign countries. 'Opposing anything Chinese has truly become the political focus of the Democratic Party,' he said. The Liberal Party and non-affiliated legislators have also voiced concerns on the proposal's effect on business and people's rights, but rather than oppose the proposal, they urged the government to impose safeguards. Defending his colleague Sophie Leung Lau Yau-fun's amendment, a mild call to protect rights and freedom which was also voted down, Liberal leader James Tien Pei-chun said the government should clearly define the crimes to prevent trapping the innocent. David Li Kwok-po, the banking sector representative who is usually pro-government, said the proposal was vague and the government had failed to build consensus. He called for a white bill to be published for detailed public scrutiny. Secretary for Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said although she would listen to Legco's views, many of the comments lawmakers had made were irrelevant.