Media and legal bodies dismiss the government's changes as too little, too late Last-minute amendments proposed by the government did little to ease concerns on the most controversial provisions of the national security law yesterday as journalists and legal professionals continued to call for more time to discuss the relevant issues. The introduction of a public interest defence for unlawfully disclosing state secrets required much more discussion, prominent journalists said, adding that the law was drafted too awkwardly. The new addition allows journalists to use public interest as a defence for revealing protected information in certain cases. This includes information regarding unlawful activities, abuse of power, serious neglect of duty or other serious misconduct by public officials, or uncovering a serious threat to public order, security, health or safety. It stipulates such reportage should not reveal more than necessary to expose the activities. But Ming Pao editor-in-chief Cheung Kin-po said media groups needed time to consider the amendment. 'There are things we can't foresee right now,' he said. 'If in future [we have to report] things in areas that fall outside the categories stated in the public interest defence, then we don't know what we can do.' Hong Kong News Executives' Association chairwoman May Chan Suk-mei said the drafting of the law was too narrow. She said the government should explain the amendments better and give the public time to discuss them by postponing the legislation. Law professor Michael Davis, a member of the Article 23 Concern Group, welcomed the deletion of a provision to ban groups linked to organisations banned on the mainland, but said that it amounted only to 'throwing a few bones out to appease the crowd'. 'If the government was serious and less stingy with civil liberties, it would either abandon the proscription proposals entirely or at least take the power to proscribe away from the secretary for security,' Professor Davis, of the Chinese University, said. The removal of police powers for warrantless searches was 'conceding something that was never justified in the first place', he said. 'The government thinks it got rid of the list of controversial provisions, but everyone else's list is much longer. We don't know why handling of seditious publications is in the law at all, there are excessive punishments, and the sedition law lacks a provision on immediacy - the list goes on.' The Law Society said it welcomed the amendments. The society said it had sent a letter to Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa a few days ago calling on the government to postpone a vote on at least the most controversial parts of the law, including the proscription and sedition provisions. Lawmaker and former Bar Association chairwoman Audrey Eu Yuet-me said the public interest defence amendment was vague and too narrowly defined. It should have been simply defined without the complicated conditions the government outlined, she said. 'I don't know why they used words like 'serious' and 'seriously' - how do you define 'serious misconduct' or a 'serious threat'?'