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Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 09:36 GMT 10:36 UK
HK unveils anti-subversion law plan
A Chinese man walks past an advertisement highlighting the close relationship between Hong Kong and China
Beijing has put pressure on Hong Kong to draft the law
The Hong Kong government has unveiled its proposals for a controversial anti-subversion law, which China supports but democracy activists fear could stifle free speech.

The government released its proposals on Tuesday at the start of a three-month public consultation period, after which it will finalise draft legislation.


Our proposal would not undermine in any way the existing human rights and civil liberties enjoyed by Hong Kong people

Tung Chee-hwa
Hong Kong's Chief Executive, Tung Chee-hwa, said the planned law was necessary to ensure national security.

The Basic Law - Hong Kong's mini-constitution which has governed the territory since its 1997 return to Chinese sovereignty - required an anti-subversion bill to be passed under article 23.

But the government, aware of the disquiet it could cause in the sensitive years following the territory's handover, delayed its proposal until now.

The proposal says:

  • The purpose of the new law would be to protect the "sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and national security" of China and of the Hong Kong government.

  • The expression or reporting of opinion will not be criminalised, unless it incites others "to levy war or use force or other serious offences to sedition".

  • Emergency powers should be implemented to allow a property to be entered and an individual to be stopped and searched in order to investigate suspected treason, secession, sedition or subversion.

  • The proposed penalty for such crimes would be life in prison. Those found guilty of inciting violence or public disorder could be jailed for up to seven years.

  • The proposed penalty for the publication of material deemed seditious would be seven years in jail and a fine of HK$500,000 (US$64,000).

Chief Executive Tung sought to calm those who fear for the territory's autonomy, telling reporters:

"Our proposal would not undermine in any way the existing human rights and civil liberties enjoyed by Hong Kong people, nor will our existing ways of life be affected."

But rights activists fear the proposal, if passed into law, could be used against anyone China or Hong Kong objects to, including political dissidents or religious groups such as Falun Gong - already outlawed on mainland China.

"If someone should continually criticise the central government or seek for a vindication of the 1989 pro-democracy movement [Tiananmen Square], would officials interpret it as violating the law?" said Rose Wu of the Hong Kong Christian Institute.

See also:

12 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
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24 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
19 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
15 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
12 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
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