Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie has hit back at critics of the government's offer to halt civil court action against three protesters. Under the deal, the three would have to pay $10,000 each towards the government's court costs. Some reports had said that if they refused, the protesters faced ongoing civil court action and the possibility of having to pay the government's full legal bill of $150,000. In a written article to be published today in several Chinese-language newspapers, Miss Leung insisted that it was 'fair and proper' to request the three foot part of the legal costs. But she denied the government had threatened them with having to pay the full $150,000 legal bill as an out-of-court settlement. Critics claimed that freedom of speech and assembly were being undermined. Miss Leung also said that under the offer the three were not being banned from entering Immigration Tower; the government was merely seeking an assurance from them not to protest there. The Immigration Department won a temporary injunction last year barring Lui Yuk-lin, Lin Tao-cheng and Cheung Cho-chang from demonstrating inside Immigration Tower. The trio were involved in a right-of-abode rally on April 22 last year during which there was a scuffle with police. Miss Leung said what the government was seeking had nothing to do with 'restricting the freedom of assembly'. She said the government had given a lot of thought to freedom of assembly, which is protected under Article 27 of the Basic Law and Hong Kong's Human Rights Ordinance. 'Citizens should observe the law and respect other people's rights when exercising their freedom. It is our duty to use civil action to defend other people's rights and the orderly operation of the government, which is very reasonable,' she said. 'If we did not take action because of some politician's criticism ... we would have put those activists above the law.' Referring to the legal bill, Miss Leung said the government had never asked the protesters to pay $150,000, as one newspaper claimed, and indicated flexibility on the issue. 'If the defendants have financial difficulties, they could talk to us. We will consider exempting them or asking them to pay less as part of the settlement condition. If we do not ask the defendants to pay, the public would criticise us for wasting taxpayers' money.'