Two distinct, but equally important questions have dominated what has become a highly charged debate over the government's proposals to enact laws against subversive activity under Article 23 of the Basic Law. The first is whether the legislation will have a negative impact on rights and freedoms, with all the implications that would have for Hong Kong's international reputation. The second is the extent to which the government is prepared to listen to the people. A significant step was taken yesterday with regard to both, as the government announced notable changes to the original proposals. But the dogged refusal to publish the draft legislation for a second round of public consultation will limit the extent to which this will ease concerns. Officials deserve credit for having the courage to scrap two proposed offences which had attracted criticism. Possession of seditious publications had given rise to fears that people could find themselves prosecuted if the contents of their bookshelves did not meet with official approval. Misprision of treason, which criminalises a failure to inform on others, evoked images of a police state. The decision to abolish the proposals is to be welcomed. The scope of other proposed crimes is to be limited, and some of the media's concerns have been taken on board, particularly with regard to the theft of state secrets. Consulates and foreign chambers of commerce have also been listened to, with non-Chinese nationals now to be spared the reach of the new treason laws. The crimes are to be tried by a jury, an important requirement even if, in practice, this would have happened in most cases. All of these measures provide reassurance and reflect a realisation by officials that they had to take action to address some of the concerns which had been vociferously raised. Even so, they do not go far enough. Controversial proposals concerning the banning of organisations linked to those outlawed on the mainland remain, although their scope has been slightly narrowed. While credit should be given for allowing appeals against such a ban to be considered by courts, instead of by special tribunals, the proposals appear to go beyond the requirements of Article 23, and there is little justification for them. Despite yesterday's concessions, the government has still failed to address the clearest and loudest message conveyed during the consultation process: the demand from a wide section of the community for a second round of public consultation once draft legislation has been published. In the absence of the precise wording of the laws, it is inevitable that doubts and fears will remain about what exactly is intended. Yesterday's changes, contained in a small pamphlet, go just a little way towards clearing up the uncertainty. Only by swallowing its pride and publishing a draft bill for public consultation, capable of being amended before reaching the Legislative Council, can the government achieve this and heal the rift that the debate has sowed in the community. Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa said yesterday that what is most important is getting it right in the end. That must, of course, be right, but that is not sufficient. People will not believe the government has got it right unless it is seen to be accepting a modest request for transparency and full consultation. Mr Tung should realise that the government has nothing to lose, but everything to gain by taking this step. Yesterday's changes are a step in the right direction. But more needs to be done.