Apple Daily's Commentary: Enactment of Article 23 Is a Potion of Slow Poison
(Clearwisdom.net) According to Apple Daily's report on December 10, 2002, when people carefully read the Hong Kong Bar Association's response to the consultation document on the proposals to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law, and carefully read the various concerns and criticisms that the Hong Kong Bar Association raised regarding the consultation document, most people will agree that the government's legislative proposal would bring far-reaching harm to Hong Kong's legal system, and would gradually erode its citizens' rights and freedoms. Therefore, people should all say "No" to the legislative proposal, just as the Bar Association did.
It is easy to produce unjust or misjudged cases
Here, we are unable to list all of the concerns that the Hong Kong Bar Association raised. But just by scanning the following few points, we can understand how frightening the government's legislative proposal is. For example, because the government proposes to make dealing with and possessing seditious publications offences, the Bar believes that keeping a diary or putting one's thoughts on paper and the keeping of such material will fall within the definition of the offence of possession of seditious materials. Please think about it, even a citizen's diary could be judged, and a citizen could commit a criminal offence just by keeping a diary or recording his thoughts. Is this kind of law acceptable? How could one not oppose it?
Also, the Bar criticizes the government's proposal to use misprision of treason. The Bar believes that the proposal in effect makes it the duty of an ordinary person to report treason. The result would be criminalization of the ignorant, the na ve, and the trusting, and even those who are under a professional and ethical obligation not to reveal confidences. In fact, in a modern, open, and democratic society, the definition of treason becomes more and more complicated, and it becomes more and more difficult for the ordinary person to decide whether treason has or has not been committed. The government is proposing to make it a duty for ordinary people to report treason. Wouldn't this create more disorder, tension, and even unjust cases?
What's even more frightening is that the government proposes to endow government officials and prosecutors with more power but fails to add some balancing or restricting measures that would protect citizens' rights and freedoms.
Hong Kong Is in Decline
For example, when the government's proposal defined the offenses of sedition and theft of state secrets, it did not include defense of the public's interests or the principles ensuring freedom of speech stated in the Johannesburg Principles. The result is that the media and ordinary citizens can easily be criminalized because of their reports or opinions. How could people accept a proposal that so unreasonably extends the government's power?
Mr. Alan Leong, President of the Hong Kong Bar Association, describes the impact Article 23 would have on the legal system as "cooking a frog in cold water." He believes that the government's proposal would insidiously lead the legal system towards death without knowing it until it was too late. Mr. Leong is too polite. The legislative proposal of Article 23 is in fact a potion of slow poison, which will erode all aspects of citizens' freedoms and rights, and will cause Hong Kong to gradually lose its vigor and eventually become a shadow of its former self.