Restrictions on protests to be eased

THE law is to be changed to make it easier to stage protests and to reduce police powers to ban demonstrations.

In a bid to bring the controversial Public Order Ordinance in line with the Bill of Rights, a licence from the police will no longer be needed for public processions and gatherings. Organisers only need to notify police.

The limit on the number of people taking part in public protests and rallies without notification will also be raised from 30 to 50 and from 20 to 30 respectively.

The police will have to give reasons when it bans public meetings and processions. At the moment the chief of police has wide discretionary powers to refuse a licence.

The bill, understood to had been finalised for more than a year, was deferred until now to avoid agitating China during the Sino-British row.