In a stunning turnaround, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa announced at 2am this morning that the government will defer the second reading of the controversial national security legislation. The move came after executive councillor James Tien Pei-chun last night resigned from the cabinet after his calls to delay the bill, which was scheduled to be put before the Legislative Council on Wednesday, were earlier rejected. The surprise decision has thrown the chief executive's plan into chaos and added new uncertainties to the tug of war over whether the bill could be put to a vote as scheduled this week. Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen paid a late-night visit to Mr Tien's Mid-Levels home after learning of his resignation and Mr Tung called an emergency meeting of his cabinet which culminated in the surprise decision to defer the vote. In a brief statement earlier in the evening, the Liberal Party said its chairman had tendered his resignation to Mr Tung from the Executive Council with immediate effect. The statement stopped short of giving a reason but Mr Tien is expected to make an announcement explaining his decision this afternoon. The party had reiterated its request to defer the second reading of the anti-subversion bill, saying it had consulted widely and listened to public comments and opinions after Mr Tung announced his last-minute concessions on Saturday to ease public worries. Allen Lee Peng-fei, the former Liberal Party chairman and a National People's Congress deputy, said: 'The Liberal Party has cast a vote of no confidence on Mr Tung's administration. I do not think he can continue to rule this city anymore. This is now a problem for Beijing ..... anyone in Mr Tung's position should resign.' Democrats chairman Yeung Sum praised Mr Tien for having made a brave and prudent move. and appealed to independent legislators not to withdraw their support for a deferral of the bill. 'I think we have sufficient votes to successfully adjourn the bill if those who have committed do not change their minds,'' Dr Yeung said. Eric Li Ka-cheung, leader of the Breakfast Group, believed the government would still push the bill through when it comes to a vote but Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong legislator Chan Kam-lam conceded those in favour of the legislation could thin out. Mr Tien last week made a surprise visit to Beijing and met senior officials on the Article 23 deadlock. He said on his return on Friday that the central government Beijing had no clear preferences on the details of and the timetable for the bill, so long as it was passed. Mr Tien proposed delaying the bill until December to allow for more discussions. Mr Tung had announced on Saturday that he would go ahead with the vote as planned this Wednesday but offered concessions in three areas. A proposal to prohibit ban local groups subordinate to banned mainland organisations will be removed, along with police powers to search and arrest without a warrant. emergency investigative entry and arrest powers. Public interest will also be allowed to defend in the courts admissible as a defence in cases involving the disclosure of certain official secrets. But opposition to pass the Article 23 legislation this week remained strong, with the media and legal professions believing the amendments were insufficient. Alan Leong Ka-kit, senior counsel of the Article 23 concern group, had rejected Mr Tung's initial claim that the bill should go ahead as planned to avoid delaying economic recovery. 'The message of the July 1 protest is clear. The public wants the government to delay [voting on the bill] so that they can to participate in the legislative process,' he said. Hong Kong News Executives' Association chairwoman May Chan Suk-mei said few people were involved in the drafting of the law. was too narrow. She said the government needed to explain the amendments better and give the public time to discuss them. by postponing the bill. Defending the amendments yesterday, Secretary for Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said there were no grounds for people to continue worry about loss of freedoms. 'We sincerely believe that we have tried our best to address public concerns,' she said.