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On the Enactment of Article 23 Legislation in Hong Kong

February 21, 2003

Joint Public Statement

We, the undersigned, wish to express our deep concern at the draft legislation on Article 23.

As the proposals stand, the outcome of this legislation will be an erosion of “One Country-Two Systems” and a decrease in the protection and promotion of fundamental human rights in Hong Kong.

We remain disappointed that the need to implement Article 23 has not led to the removal of archaic laws and the creation of a modern legislation based on international human rights standards - instead the government has made proposals which could contravene international standards and has shown a disregard for public opinion in its haste to legislate.

We also remind the government that such legislation will potentially destabilise Hong Kong society, criminalise the legitimate actions of an independent civil society and further undermine Hong Kong’s reputation as a World City.

While some concerns have been addressed in the Blue Bill, many remain unaddressed and more have been highlighted. In general, the proposals in the Blue Bill still go far beyond what is needed to implement Article 23 and are likely to increase restrictions upon the fundamental human rights of Hong Kong citizens. We remain appalled at the potential for abuse of the proposed legislation as outlined in the Blue Bill and are deeply worried by the government’s determination to rush through the legislation.

In particular we remain deeply concerned about proposed amendments to the “Provisions of the Crimes Ordinance (Cap. 200)” Part II 9A (concerning sedition) and 9C (concerning handling seditious publication); “Provisions of the Official Secrets Ordinance (Cap. 521)” Part III 16A (concerning information related to Hong Kong affairs within the responsibility of the Central Authorities); and “Provisions of the Societies Ordinance (Cap. 151)” 8A and 15 (concerning proscription of organisations endangering national security and information to be furnished by societies).

We strongly oppose the linking of proscribed organizations on the mainland to organizations in Hong Kong – a proposal which goes far beyond the terms of Article 23. These proposals appear to allow for PRC concepts of national security to have precedence in the HK SAR. This has far reaching implications and further erodes the sovereignty of the HK SAR. Given the widespread restrictions on basic human rights on the Chinese mainland it is likely that many organizations may be proscribed in the HK SAR. Groups of Chinese dissidents in Hong Kong may be at particular risk and face unnecessary restrictions on their work.

We remain concerned that independent groups researching human rights abuses in the mainland and taking action to redress such abuses could be criminalised. The implications for freedom of expression and the media remain worryingly unclear and the potential for increased censorship and self-censorship of the media and civil society in general remains high. In addition we believe that legitimate expressions of public discontent and protests are also at risk of criminalisation.

We remind the government of its commitment to the right to fair trial and the need to ensure that all trials conform to international standards which have clear restrictions on the use of trials in absentia and in camera.
We are deeply worried that the proposed amendments to the Societies Ordinance will undermine the fundamental rights of Hong Kong citizens, protected by principles of common laws and international standards. We ask in particular that the proposed amendments to the Societies Ordinance (Cap. 151) 8E (3) (a) that the government may make provision “enabling proceedings to take place without the appellant being given full particulars of the reasons for the proscription in question” and 8E(3) (b) that “the Court of First Instance may “hold proceedings in the absence of any person, including the appellant and any legal representative appointed by him”.

We also remind the Hong Kong SAR government of its obligations to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and Articles 4, 5, 11,19, 22,27, 30,34, and 35 of the Hong Kong Basic Law – all of which are at potential risk of being undermined by the current proposals.

In addition, we are appalled that submissions made to the Legco Security Panel on 14 December 2002 were not included in the Government Compendium of Submissions on Article 23 and find this omission to be a blatant example of the lack of respect afforded to the public submissions and to members of the Legislative Committee. The publication of faulty findings and an incomplete compendium of submissions reveal a lack of real commitment to consultation and to incorporating the results of such consultation into government legislation.

We support the calls from numerous organisations who are calling for a further analysis of the public consultation and a proper compendium, including the motion made by the Honourable Sin Chung-kai to the Legco for 26 February 2003 condemning the slipshod and incomplete compiling of the compendium and asking for an independent organisation to analyze and summarise the views to ensure that public opinion is fully addressed.

We reiterate our calls for a White Bill to be published. Given the lack of a detailed and clear outline of the proposed legislation the public consultation exercise was severely hampered. The consultation document was vague, unclear and contained misleading and inaccurate references to other state and international legislation.

We call upon the government not to enact such repressive legislation. The government should halt its push to rush through such an important and potentially destabilising legislation and instead should fully analyse the public submissions and opinions – including those of organisations not included in the submission.

Signed by

Amnesty International, Hong Kong Section
China Labour Bulletin
Human Rights in China
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
Hong Kong Christian Institute
Joint Committee for Amendment of Public Order Ordinance
Student Christian Movement of Hong Kong

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