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HONG KONG: Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa appealed for calm yesterday and said he would work to better understand public concerns.

"We believe that the community needs to have a calm atmosphere and we need to really stand united in front of all these challenges," he said.

He made the remarks after the special administrative region (SAR) government decided to defer the resumption of the second reading of the National Security Bill scheduled for tomorrow.

On Saturday, the government made substantial changes to three controversial areas of Article 23 of the Basic Law.

"This is really in further response to the views and concerns expressed by the people," Tung said.

"At this moment, I think what is most important is really to get our economy going again, and we need to stand united to move forward together."

He stressed, however, that Hong Kong has a constitutional duty to enact legislation to safeguard national security. He expressed his hope that the people of Hong Kong would work together to see that the legislative process is completed.

Chief Secretary Donald Tsang said: "The main purpose of the postponement is to allow Hong Kong people more time to consider the bill with a cool head. The summer vacation will give us sufficient time to examine the amendments."

Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung said the Article 23 legislation is mandatory under the Basic Law. Her department would continue explaining the bill to legislators and the public.

Tung announced yesterday that the second reading of the bill will be shelved after a contingency Executive Council meeting.

Gao Siren, director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong, yesterday expressed support and respect for the SAR government's decision to defer the second reading of the National Security Bill.

He said the event will not affect the governance of Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's administration.

What the government needs to do is something conducive to economic development and the improvement of people's livelihoods, he added.

(China Daily 07/08/2003 page1)


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