Hong Kong: Controversial bill
triggers alarm

Amnesty's Hong Kong branch urged the government in a statement late on Tuesday to step back from "its headlong rush" towards the enactment of the legislation which it said would limit the fundamental rights and freedoms of Hong Kong citizens.

  

It expressed fears that the laws would allow mainland China's principles of state security to override Hong Kong's independent legal system.

  

"There is still a window of opportunity for the Hong Kong government to pull back from the brink of this potential human rights disaster and to listen to the hundreds of voices raised in opposition to the serious problems raised by the proposed legislation," it said.

 

Liberal law

 

A government spokesman reacted to Amnesty's call by saying "there is no extension of mainland laws to Hong Kong".

 

The proposed law represents "a liberalisation of existing laws on treason, sedition and protection of official secrets and compares favourably with similar legislation in other common law jurisdictions," the spokesman said.

  

The agreement under which Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 obliges the territory to pass the legislation banning treason, sedition, subversion and the theft of state secrets. The law is due to be enacted on 9 July. 

 

The Chinese government has argued that the bill will be among the most liberal national security laws in the world. It has criticized attempts to run down the bill whereas Washington passed rigorous laws to defend itself after the 11 September attacks.

 

In response, Washington’s Republican Congressman Christopher Cox in charge of US Homeland Security claimed the two were different. In an interview over HongKong radio,  Cox claimed the US laws were aimed at “combatants” while the Hong Kong bill was targeting ordinary citizens.

 

Cox's assertions come as the US is under criticism for the manner in which it has treated prisoners since the 11 September attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan. The US is holding 675 prisoners from dozens of countries without charge or access to lawyers in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, denying them rights accorded to prisoners of war under international treaties.