Chief executive finally concedes that it is necessary to 'put forward the National Security Bill to the community again' A second round of public consultation on the National Security Bill will be conducted, the chief executive announced yesterday. Almost 10 months after the first calls for a white bill detailing the laws to be put to the public for consultation, Tung Chee-hwa conceded it was necessary to 'put forward the bill to the whole community for consultation again'. He would not say whether a white bill would specifically be published or give a timetable for the enactment of the law, but repeated that the government had a duty to implement Article 23. 'Everybody can see that although the consultative and legislative process has been under way for nearly a year, many of our citizens still do not understand the contents,' he said. 'Based on the foundation of the legislative work done already, this consultation exercise will be even more extensive than the previous one.' The government would compile a full text of the bill, incorporating all amendments made to it since it was first published in January this year and discuss it with the Legislative Council's bills committee on the national security law. 'Meanwhile, we shall reopen our dialogue with the public and concerned organisations to listen to their views,' he said. 'Let me emphasise that the purpose of this round of consultation is to win the maximum understanding and support of the community as a whole for this legislation.' Mr Tung said the schedule of the legislative process would depend on how the consultation went, suggesting a more flexible approach to the timetable. The move was welcomed by legal experts and lawmakers who have been calling for this approach from the start. Democratic Party leader Yeung Sum said he hoped the government would consult the public through a white bill and that it would not set a strict timetable for consultation or enactment. Albert Chen Hung-yee, a member of the National People's Congress Basic Law Committee and a legal scholar at the University of Hong Kong, said the announcement represented the right way forward. 'I think it is good that the government has now recognised that simply getting a sufficient number of votes in Legco for the bill is not enough, that it is essential to have broad public support for this very controversial law,' he said. Professor Chen called for a consultation document with an updated version of the bill and an explanatory memorandum to explain what the law currently is, what changes to existing law are being recommended and the rationale behind these changes. 'The most important thing is to explain by means of concrete examples how this bill, if passed, will affect people's lives,' he added. 'For example, would journalists have to refrain from writing about certain matters? Would members of the public have less freedom to shout certain kinds of slogans during demonstrations? We need not just abstract legal principles but examples from day-to-day life of how the bill actually works.' Professor Chen said he hoped the bill would be passed before current legislators' terms of office expired next year so that efforts already put into the bill would not be wasted. The lawmaker for the legal sector and Article 23 Concern Group member Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee said that Mr Tung made two good moves: committing the government to a full and thorough consultation and not putting 'a time straitjacket on it'. 'He also said they would issue a new document and, while this is a good idea, I think it should include amendments made by other members as well so the public can judge for themselves what their choices are,' she said. Ms Ng called for the government to redraft the bill, which she described as 'a botched job', particularly with the last-minute amendments made to it. 'It is much better to make a fresh start. It is not that difficult and will come out with a better bill,' she said.