Protests like this may soon be
risky in Hong Kong

Opposition Democratic Party member Szeto Wah has said the law would be used to intimidate Hong Kong's political opposition and pro-democracy campaigners.

 

“If we don't dare to voice our criticism now, no one will dare do so after the law gets enacted,'' Szeto said.

 

Founding chairman of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, attorney Paul Harris, feared officials would use the law to crack down on the Falun Gong meditation sect in Hong Kong.

 

Falun Gong is outlawed as an "evil cult'' in mainland China but remains legal in Hong Kong, and carries out frequent demonstrations that officials find troublesome.

 

But state councillor Tang Jiaxuan, a former foreign minister who now leads Beijing's policy on Hong Kong, called the anti-subversion law a crucial step following the isalnd's handover from Britain to China six years ago.

 

Tang said the anti-subversion law was necessary. Otherwise, what was the meaning of Hong Kong’s return to China, he asked.

 

Hong Kong Secretary for Security Regina Ip said the anti-subversion law was intended to stop people from violently overthrowing the government. It would not infringe on Hong Kong's constitutionally protected freedoms of speech, press and assembly.

 

Tang and Chinese President Hu Jintao told reporters that the law would have beneficial effects on both national security and stability in Hong Kong.

 

US concern

 

Meanwhile, the United States has told a group of Hong Kong legislators that it is worried about the proposed law.

 

Washington expressed its worries at a meeting between the legislators led by Hong Kong's opposition politician Martin Lee and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

 

According to a US state department spokesman, Armitage  told the group that the proposed laws on sedition and subversion should not result in any restrictions on individual liberties, religious freedom, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech.

 

Under Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the government is obliged to pass laws banning treason, sedition, subversion and the theft of state secrets.
 
The government, which had watered down the initial version after a three-month consultation period, submitted the law to the Legislative Council in February and is hoping to have the legislation enacted by July.