"Consultation Period" For Article 23 Expires -- 190,000 Signatures Opposing Article 23 Submitted to Hong Kong Government
December 24th, 2002 was the last day of the consultation period for Article 23. The Civil Human Rights Front, composed of more than 40 member organizations, paraded to the government building and submitted 190, 000 signatures. Representatives believe that if this article becomes law, it will jeopardize the freedom of speech and human rights of Hong Kong (HK) people. They also think that the HK SAR (Special Administrative Region) government has been trying to sell their proposal to implement Article 23 during the consultation period, rather than listen to people's concerns.
According to some other reports, the United States of America, Canada, Australia, the European Union (EU), and other countries have expressed their deep concern over the Article 23 issue. The EU has passed a resolution indicating that the enactment of Article 23 may negatively affect the relationship between the EU and China.
The HK government has been claiming that the enactment of Article 23 will not affect any of the human rights of HK people, but the political parties, academia, media, religious groups and legal circle in HK are very worried and they launched a mass parade with 60,000 people participating. Such a large-scale demonstration is really rare in recent years. At the same time, a survey conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong showed that 70% of the people surveyed thought that it is not the right time to implement Article 23. With so many people opposing it, will the HK government still implement Article 23? We have to wait and see.
The U.S. government once again shows its concern over Article 23
On December 23, Mr. J. Scott Carpenter, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State from the U.S. State Department and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, accepted an interview by New Tang Dynasty TV in the U.S. He said that President Bush "made it very clear to President Jiang Zemin that this was an issue of concern for the people of the United States of America." Mr. Carpenter said that over 50,000 Americans live in HK, and the U.S. has a fixed asset of about 29 billion dollars in HK. Therefore, Americans pay close attention to Article 23, just like HK people do. They are concerned whether or not they will unknowingly violate the subversion or sedition law, should Article 23 become law. He hoped that HK people's opinions opposing Article 23 would be considered by the HK government.
EU passed resolution to oppose Article 23
On December 19, the EU passed a resolution to show its concern over Article 23. The resolution says that Article 23 will affect the freedom of HK, and it requests that the HK government not suppress dissidents, freedom of speech, publication, assembly, demonstration, strike, and various cultural activities by using Article 23. The resolution also stressed that whether Beijing authorities respect the autonomy of HK will affect the future relationship between the EU and China.
Before the resolution was passed, Mevrouw Elly Plooij-van Gorsel, Chair of Chinese Relationship Committee of the EU, said it is too broad to define "any organization that will sabotage national security." She said, "Some of the things are very suspicious. If it were true as the HK government claimed that this law only targets HK, why did the Beijing authorities send someone to lobby us to agree to the implementation of Article 23?"
Mevrouw Elly Plooij-van Gorsel also said, "The implementation of Article 23 would be a disaster for the economic growth of HK. HK people living under the rule of such law would be subject to grave danger. Article 23 stipulates that anyone who contacts people who violate the subversion law, yet who fails to report them to the authorities would be construed as violating the law, and will be punished. If anyone for any reason gets in touch with the wrong person, they may be accused of breaking the law. We all know that this implies greater risk, and higher wages. For many firms, sending their employees to work in China is very difficult because people sometimes feel that working in China is a sort of punishment. Therefore, the firms have to pay higher wages to persuade their employees to move to China to work. If Article 23 becomes law, people will think working in HK is no different than working in China."
Evelyne Gebhardt, member of the EU Diplomatic, Human Rights, Public Security and Defense Committee, said that the EU represents all of Europe. Looking at this issue from a long term perspective, the EU should not cooperate with China if it does not respect human rights.