July 12, 2003

 

Joint Statement of Canadians urging the HKSAR Government to begin a genuine dialogue on governance and democratic reform

 

On July 1st, 2003, an estimated 500,000 people in Hong Kong marched in the streets to protest the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government’s proposed national security bill on the implementation of Basic Law Article 23.

 

We, the undersigned, are encouraged by the HKSAR government decision on July 7, 2003 to postpone the second reading of the national security bill. In fact, we stand in solidarity with Hong Kong citizens and groups calling on the HKSAR government to abandon this ill-defined and potentially abusive legislation altogether.

 

Hong Kong civil society including business organizations, democracy activists, students groups, journalists, trade unions, human rights groups and NGOs, political parties, religious and social groups and concerned individuals have repeatedly expressed serious concerns over the draconian measures proposed in the national security bill calling it a direct threat to fundamental civil liberties guaranteed for Hong Kong residents after the territory's handover to China in 1997.

 

The HKSAR government had proposed last minute changes to the legislation relating to the proscription of societies, the creation of a public interest defence and the removal of police powers to carry out warrantless searches. These inadequate changes do not go far enough to protect the rights of the Hong Kong people, and may in fact serve to worsen the situation. The Hong Kong Bar Association among other groups have raised over 100 concerns with the national security bill.

 

This legislation, which was introduced into the non-democratically elected Hong Kong legislature in February 2003, would assign penalties for acts of treason, subversion, sedition, and secession. We fear that it would offer opportunities for the government of Hong Kong—and by extension, the Chinese government in Beijing—with the legal means to prosecute those who dare to criticize. We are aware that numerous activists and dissidents in China have been detained and sentenced on the charge of revealing state secrets. The proposals to allow for secret trials runs counter to internationally recognized rights to fair trials and represent a serious erosion of human rights. The extra-territoriality aspects of the national security bill mean that Hong Kong permanent residents and Chinese nationals may face charges for political activities conducted outside of HKSAR.


The people of Hong Kong have in two large demonstrations clearly stated their demands for transparency of government and democratic reform.

 

We therefore urge the HKSAR government to engage the Hong Kong people in an open and frank discussion not only of the national security bill but of the transparency of governance in Hong Kong and a genuine dialogue on the creation of a more democratic Hong Kong by 2007, when the transitional period of the territory’s handover to China expires.

 

The world community including Canadians will continue to support the Hong Kong people in pressing the HKSAR government to realize and respect universally recognized human rights standards.

 

 

Signed,

 

Vancouver Society In Support of Democratic Movement

Vancouver Hong Kong Forum Society

Vancouver Association of Chinese Canadians

Toronto Association for Democracy in China

Movement for Democracy in China (Calgary)

Democracy China-Ottawa

Mary-Woo Sims, Former BC Chief Human Rights Commissioner

Global Coalition Against Article 23