'Disrespectful' comments bring an appeal for Ambrose Lee to meet panel Lawmakers scrutinising the covert surveillance bill yesterday called on Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong to attend one of their meetings instead of communicating through the media. Bills Committee members took exception to Mr Lee's comments on radio on Monday that progress was 'unsatisfactory' and the legislature may have to hold a special session on August 2 to pass the bill. 'We have been meeting [Security Bureau officials] for many hours a week but they have not said anything directly to us about their plans,' Emily Lau Wai-hing of The Frontier said. Democrat James To Kun-sun and Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah said Mr Lee had shown disrespect and should have attended yesterday's meeting to avoid souring the relationship between the executive and the legislature. Mr Tong said: 'When two courts ruled the [covert surveillance regime] unconstitutional last year, they still did not present a bill to us but issued an executive order. Why are we scrutinising this bill, which has so many problems, at such a late stage?' Permanent Secretary for Security Stanley Ying Yiu-hong said Mr Lee had merely been 'stating the facts' in response to questions. 'The secretary did not criticise this committee. He was only offering facts you already know,' he said. 'On August 8, we will lose the legal basis to conduct covert surveillance, and to pass the law before August 8, the latest Legco meeting would be on August 2.' Liberal Party lawmaker Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee said Mr Lee was entitled to freedom of speech and urged the legislators to focus on the task in hand. So far, lawyer-legislators have taken issue with almost every one of the 12 clauses of the 65-clause bill they have examined. Yesterday, on clause 12, Civic Party legislator Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee said there had to be a cap on the number of renewals a law enforcer could be granted for a single spying operation, and the requirements for each renewal must be more stringent than the first. Department of Justice law officer Ian Wingfield said it would be difficult to specify a fixed number of renewals or a fixed period of surveillance in the law. 'One is effectively saying the surveillance should cease, notwithstanding all the justifications that existed for it remaining in place,' he said. Mr Ying said a balance had to be struck between the right to privacy and law authorities' ability to combat crime. He said every subsequent renewal application would require the authorities to convince the judge afresh of the need for the operation, and it would get progressively more difficult. But Mr To said the law should specifically state as a guiding principle that repeated renewal applications should be scrutinised more stringently.