We will bad-mouth Article 23 but not HK, says Martin Lee

Overseas trips to discuss fears over the proposed national security legislation should not be described as attempts to 'bad-mouth' Hong Kong, a delegation of lawmakers, journalists and activists have said ahead of their visit to the United States.

Responding to Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's claim earlier this month that the Democrats had been bad-mouthing Hong Kong for six years, legislator Martin Lee Chu-ming said they were merely bad-mouthing a law that would be 'thoroughly bad for Hong Kong'.

Independent lawmaker and barrister Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee said it was time that the government accepted that opposing its policies did not equate to speaking out against Hong Kong.

'Why is it that you can't disagree with government's policies without being accused of bad-mouthing Hong Kong?' she said.

'If the international community invites us to say what we think, do we say, 'Go away, we are self-confident and do not care what you say - we will listen to [Secretary for Security] Regina Ip?' If the government has ceased to care about international opinion, then it is even more backward than I think it is.'

Ms Ng will join Mr Lee, Democrat James To Kun-sun, human rights activist Law Yuk-kai and labour and media representatives on the week-long trip to Washington and New York sponsored by Freedom House, a non-partisan group supporting freedom and democracy around the world.

Mr Lee, who met high-level officials in Europe and America last October, said he hoped the US would ask the Hong Kong government why it was trying to rush through the legislation. Mr Lee's trip was followed by a visit by Solicitor-General Robert Allcock to defend the government's position.

During this trip the group will meet senior US officials and various human rights and labour organisations.

Mr Lee said the trip would have the added bonus of increasing confidence in Hong Kong after the Sars outbreak, as 'six maskless, healthy Hong Kong people will go there and six maskless healthy Hong Kong people will return'.