Hong Kong delays controversial bill

The Hong Kong government on Monday decided to delay an anti-subversion bill that brought half a million people, who saw it as a threat to their freedom, onto the streets last week.

    Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung
    Chee-hwa (C)Tung backed down

    Chief executive Tung Chee-Hwa
    met with his top aides and then issued a statement to say he was backing down from earlier demands that the National Security bill be passed on Wednesday.

    Beijing on Sunday said it wanted the bill passed on schedule.

    Some analysts have said Tung might not be able to survive what has become the biggest crisis his administration has had to face.

    Tung's hopes of passing the bill by next week evaportated after key legislative ally and liberal party leader James Tien resigned on Sunday night.

    Tien said in a statement he had resigned from Chief Executive Tung Chee-Hwa’s cabinet because he wanted further public consultations on the security bill, which brought half a million protesters to the streets on 1 July.

    Critics of the law are concerned China’s Communist leaders could use the law to suppress freedoms, stifle reporting of official abuse, prevent protests against the government and block access to legal representation.

    About 60 members of the Democratic party demonstrated outside the administration’s headquarters on Sunday to push for a delay.

    Under article 23 of Hong Kong’s post-1997 handover constitution, the city is required to enact a national security law to ban treason, sedition, subversion and the theft of state secrets.

    Mass protests

    Last week's protests shook
    legislators

    Last week’s mass demonstration, the largest in Hong Kong for more than a decade, forced Tung to announce major amendments to the bill on Saturday.

    Provisions allowing authorities to ban organisations outlawed in China including the Falungong spiritual movement were removed from the bill’s text.

    Clauses that would have given police the authority to conduct searches without warrants in national security investigations were also slashed.

    Public interest will also be introduced as a defence for unlawful disclosure of “certain official information” to alleviate concerns.

    The government said on Sunday the amendments had addressed public and international concerns.

    Opposition lawmakers had threatened another protest on Wednesday if the vote goes ahead, with 50,000 people expected to gather outside the legislative council, the city’s lawmaking body.

     

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