Press Release on Article 23

HONG KONG BAR ASSOCIATION
PRESS RELEASE ON ARTICLE 23

1. The Hong Kong Bar Association deplores any decision to resume the second reading of the National Security (Legislative Provisions) Bill on July 9. The Bar regrets that the integrity of the legislative process has yielded to political expediency. With the Government's refusal to publish a White Bill and its self-imposed limitation of the time allowed for discussion of the Bill, the consultation process has been rushed and the public has been denied full participation in the scrutiny of the Bill.

2. Some provisions like those relating to the amendment to the Official Secrets Ordinance and the proscription mechanism are not required by Article 23.

3. The Bill represents a real threat to the rights and freedoms of the residents of Hong Kong, in particular, to their freedom of political expression and of seeking information through the media.

4. Some legal concepts and definitions in the Bill remain imprecise with the result that one may be left in doubt as to whether one's conduct would have infringed the law.

5. The Bar regrets the Government's refusal to make provision for public interest as a defence to unauthorized disclosure of protected information under the Official Secrets Ordinance.

6. The power of proscription of local organizations conferred upon the Secretary for Security; the denial of the appellant's right of attendance in the appeal proceedings and of representation by legal representative of his choice are matters forced upon by the Government without broad public consensus.

7. Should the Government decide to resume the second reading of the Bill on July 9, it will result in the enactment of the legislation not only with all its serious flaws and defects, but also one that lacks a broad consensual support from the community. With no pressing urgency or justification to require immediate enactment of the legislation, the Bar urges the Government to withhold the resumption of the second reading of the Bill as presently drafted.

Hong Kong Bar Association
4th July 2003