A United States congressional and executive panel has called on Hong Kong to serve as an example for China by preserving its tradition of jealously guarding the rule of law. The US Congressional-Executive Commission on China wrote in its annual report about the Article 23 controversy, from the issuance of the consultation paper in September last year to the massive rally on July 1 and the shelving of the National Security Bill last month. The report welcomed the government's plans for a new consultation on national security laws. It wrote that Hong Kong was important to the US because it showed the benefits of the rule of law and broad civil liberties. 'The commission believes that what sets Hong Kong apart from other [mainland] jurisdictions is its more progressive tradition on rule of law issues. The rest of the world expects Hong Kong to be at the forefront of governance model-setting for China, and it is in this context that backward-stepping precedents appear so troubling.' It said many people in Hong Kong and the US had hoped the government would postpone consideration of Article 23 legislation until after 2007, 'when a directly elected chief executive and Legislative Council could debate it'. The government yesterday said Hong Kong 'has a constitutional duty to legislate on Article 23'.