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Tung Chee-hwa: No plan to postpone Article 23 legislation
( 2003-07-03 09:58) (China Daily)

The Hong Kong SAR government does not intend to postpone the legislation process of Article 23, although it understands and respects the opinions of Hong Kong citizens.

This message was conveyed after Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa held contingency meetings yesterday morning with his principal officials and political party heads following a mass demonstration on July 1.

"The legislation is the SAR government's constitutional responsibility, and relevant provisions of the proposed national security bill have taken full consideration of public views to strike a balance between safeguarding national security and protecting human rights and freedoms," Wen Wei Po reported in summarizing the consensus of the meeting.

The view was reiterated by Gao Siren, director of the liaison office of the central people's government in Hong Kong, when asked by the press on the issue.

"The national security bill will not affect Hong Kong people's rights and freedoms," he was quoted by Cable TV as saying.

Meanwhile, Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung said she had heard nothing about postponement of the second reading scheduled for next Wednesday.

But she said the ultimate fate of the proposed legislation rested with the government.

"Many Hong Kong people are unfamiliar with the details of Article 23. Some thought it would deprive them of civil liberties - a worry that is unsubstantiated," she added.

Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Stephen Lam said last night that the government has heard the voice of the people clearly and would act very cautiously.

Secretary for Education and Manpower Arthur Li said earlier that the government must "legislate on Article 23", and called on citizens to have confidence in the administration.

"The government will by no means weaken freedoms and rights the citizens enjoy through the legislation."

After meeting Tung in the morning, Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong leader Tsang Yok-sing re-affirmed his support for the national security bill.

But the government needed to explain the content of Article 23 more clearly to the public, the executive councillor said.

Breakfast Group convener Eric Li said the government should consider the timing and procedure of the legislation.

He said that the seven members of the Breakfast Group will consult their electors before deciding on their voting intention.

Liberal Party Chairman James Tien said Tung was quite concerned that 500,000 people had taken to the street. The government must do something to address the people's concerns, he said.

Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Michael Suen said the government has heard the voice of people and will respond in a positive way.

Banker David Li said that the government should seriously rethink what the best option would be in the light of the massive demonstration.

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