AP: U.S. says Hong Kong should quickly release text of anti-subversion law

DIRK BEVERIDGE, Associated Press Writer

Friday, December 20, 2002


Stepping into a growing political storm over Hong Kong's planned anti-subversion law, the top U.S. diplomat here said the government should release the exact wording as quickly as possible.

Pro-democracy lawmakers fear Hong Kong is devising a law that will undermine local freedoms and tens of thousands of demonstrators have turned out in protest. But the government has yet to publish a draft of the legislation.

Hong Kong has instead released a "consultation paper" outlining its intentions, and is allowing public comment, although critics call the process a farce because they can't see the wording being proposed.

U.S. Consul General James Keith said Thursday that debate over the law would be more meaningful if Hong Kong released the text, because for now "there isn't much more detail upon which to comment."

"Ideally, we would not be talking about a consultation document, but about the law itself," Keith told a group of foreign correspondents. "I think until we have the law itself it will be hard to either confirm or dismiss worst-case scenarios."

Since Hong Kong was returned from British to Chinese sovereignty five years ago, it has been required by Article 23 of its mini-constitution to outlaw subversion, sedition, treason and other crimes against the state.

Hong Kong recently began work on the legislation, stirring concerns among the political opposition and local rights activists that the measure will be too broad and will enable officials to muzzle freedoms of speech, press and assembly.

Some bankers, brokers and stock analysts also worry that the free flow of financial information could also be stifled, wrecking Hong Kong's credibility as a major money center.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa has insisted the naysayers are off base, but the government has thus far refused demands that it release a copy of the law while the public is still being consulted.

Keith said U.S. officials have told Hong Kong officials publicly and privately that they want the territory to succeed under the "one country, two systems" arrangement put in place when it returned to China, which allows for considerable local autonomy and Western-style civil liberties.

"That is an element of what's at stake here," Keith said Thursday, adding that Washington wants to see Hong Kong enact the law on its own.

In response to Keith's comments, Hong Kong's Security Bureau said it would publish the planned law after the public consultation ends on Tuesday.

Legislators and the public "will have ample opportunity to study and comment on the draft legislation until the entire legislative exercise is completed," the bureau said in a statement.

There have been concerns raised that Beijing is pushing Hong Kong to move quickly. Those worries were aggravated this week when the top mainland official in Hong Kong was quoted as saying the protests against the anti-subversion law won't affect the outcome.


Central News Agency: Chinese in San Francisco Express Support for the Hong Kong People and Oppose the Article 23 Legislation

Jiang Ying, from the Central News Agency reported on December 16, that the Chinese in San Francisco rallied in China Town for two successive days, in support of the parade in Hong Kong that involved an estimated 60,000 people. They called on people from all walks of life to support Hong Kong's civil liberties and the rule of law.

About one hundred people from the Hong Kong and Macao Democracy and Development Union, the China Democracy & Education Foundation, the Hong Kong American Union, the University of California at Berkley China Forum, the Global Committee Against Article 23 Legislation, Falun Dafa practitioners, and the University of California at Berkley Hong Kong Student Association attended the rally. They carried many posters in both English and Chinese and protested vehemently.

Protesters pointed out that the "One country, Two systems" policy will actually exist in name only if Article 23 is enacted. The one party dictatorship in China will be extended to Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong American Union stated that Beijing has violated its promise to maintain the "One Country, Two Systems" policy, and wants to introduce "anti-revolution" as a crime. The result will be to deprive the people of Hong Kong of their civil rights and their freedom.

Yu Haocheng, a visiting scholar at UCLA and an expert on China's law pointed out that the definitions in Article 23 are vague. Under the law, a government official could declare someone guilty, not because that person actually broke the law, but because that official had political motives. Article 23 would be a political weapon for the Chinese Communist Party to suppress dissidents.

The organizations attending the rally issued a joint statement. The statement critiqued Article 23, stating that the laws of Hong Kong would be too vague, and would allow law enforcement agencies to interpret the law arbitrarily, and thereby abuse it. It would also cause serious damage to such fundamental human rights as the freedom of speech, freedom of belief, and freedom of assembly in Hong Kong.

Apple Daily: A Special Visit - Ms. D'Souza Has Three Major Concerns about Article 23

The Apple Daily reported on December 17, 2002, that human rights expert Ms. D'Souza doesn't understand why the Hong Kong government refuses to issue a White Bill to collect opinions from the public about Article 23.

The Hong Kong government claimed that the "Article 23" legislation was compiled according to international human rights standards and the "Johannesburg Principles." However, upon review, this allegation turned out to be problematic. Ms. D'Souza is the Executive Director of the law consultant group in charge of creating the Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression, and Access to Information. She wrapped up her three-day visit to Hong Kong filled with suspicions. After she interviewed several Hong Kong officials and listened to their solemn vows, she pointed out that Article 23 is full of loopholes. She expressed disappointment because she failed to persuade the Hong Kong government to add more items in the article to guarantee human rights.

Ms. D'Souza held that Article 23 was replete with many items that far exceed the need for maintaining national security. This led her have three major concerns. What she worried about most was that the Article would be abused to ban the activities of some organizations. If the Article were enforced, she worried that organizations that are presently legal in Hong Kong, such as Falun Gong, etc. would be unreasonably banned by the government.

Ms. D'Souza's second concern was that the Article would have an intimidating effect on media and even individuals once it was enacted, and that would affect the people of Hong Kong's willingness to function as supervisor of Hong Kong government. Her third concern was that, compared to other democratic countries, Hong Kong lacks certain preventive mechanisms, such as a law that guarantees freedom of the press, to prevent the government from abusing the law.

World Daily: People in Toronto Hold a Grand Parade to Oppose Article 23

World Daily reported on December 16 from Toronto that the Hong Kong-Canada Union and the Toronto Association in Support of Chinese Democracy held a parade on December 15, to oppose the Hong Kong Article 23 legislation. People participating in the parade gathered at the Meilijing Community Center at 1:30 p.m. At two o'clock, they started marching along Midland Avenue toward Stevenson Road. They did not shout slogans. They only held up banners and peacefully expressed their dissatisfaction. It was the rush hour. When the traffic got jammed, they used the opportunity to distribute flyers. When they got to the Square, they turned on Jianni Road and walked back to the community center and disbanded.

Miss Fu pointed out that the Article 23 would deprive the people of Hong Kong of their fundamental human rights, and it is not reasonable to do that. Miss Lu from Hong Kong believed that Article 23 would only serve to disrupt the presently stable life of the Hong Kong citizens, and would also damage the image of Hong Kong.

Mr. Wu Jiantao, organizer of the parade, pointed out that Article 23 would not only limit the freedom of speech in Hong Kong, but would also affect the lives of all of the people in the world who have anything to do with Hong Kong. He called for the support of people from all walks of life to oppose Article 23.