Letter to Hong Kong

Sunday 9 February 2003

Mr. YEUNG Sum, Chairman of the Democratic Party


"This is not a fake consultation." This was what our Secretary for Security told us three months ago when the government defended its work in having started the process of preparing the draft legislation. But when the government published the results of the submissions it received during the consultation exercise, it did nothing but to confirm us that the whole consultation exercise is a sham.


Right from the start, the Secretary for Justice, Ms Elsie Leung was frank enough to tell us that Beijing had been consulted on the proposed legislation. In October last year, the Secretary for Security, Mrs. Regina Ip, squarely told legislators that consensus had been reached with Beijing on both the timing and general principles of the proposed legislation. Was she not telling us that this consultation is a fake?


Even worse, fears of the public about the proposed legislation were simply dismissed as "misunderstandings". And calls for extending the consultation period and for publishing a White Bill were unheeded.


Having said it wanted to give the public views full rein, the Security Bureau came up with a categorisation process that over-simplified the responses when it summed up the consultation exercise. It categorised responses into those that are supportive of legislation to implement Article 23 (Category A), those opposed to introducing legislation (Category B), and those which are unidentifiable as either Category A or Category B (with these submissions falling into Category C).


That the results of the consultation is a foregone conclusion is no surprise. What surprises us is that under this categorisation, the views of the Democratic Party are both classified as Category B, that is "opposed to introducing legislation", and Category C, that is, "not identified". But our position is crystal clear—we are opposed to introducing legislation. We clearly set out in our position paper that we do not believe there is a present need to legislate. To ignore public opinion is bad enough. To pervert the truth is even worse. But this is what our government chooses to do.


Even if we follow the categorisation used by the Security Bureau, those who are opposed to introducing legislation to implement Article 23 outnumbers those who are supportive of legislation. But in summing up the consultation response, the Secretary for Security said about 70 percent supported the legislation under Article 23 by dismissing the signatures opposing the legislation as "untrustworthy". What is "untrustworthy" is not the signatures. It is the government itself.


Equally alarming is the way the government handles the clamour for a white bill. It is a most reasonable demand to publish a white bill containing all the details, and consult the people of Hong Kong in a thorough manner. Even though the noises for it are loud and clear, and that the results of the submissions confirm this clamour, the government is still non-committal in stance. If the government is sincere in consulting the public, what has it to fear?


Clearly public opinion is not on the government's side. By choosing to tell a white lie that people in support of the legislation outnumbers that of those opposing it, the government ignores this public outcry against oppression at its peril. It is an outcry that signifies a vote of non-confidence in the governance.


Though the government has watered down some of the proposed legislation, it has nearly left intact the most devilish proposal. It is the proposal to empower the Secretary for Security to ban Hong Kong groups subordinate to groups outlawed on national security grounds in the mainland. Though this proposal is clearly inconsistent with the Basic Law, and will open a most dangerous hole in the relationship between the Central Authorities and the HKSAR, the government seeks to retain it. Its decision not to allow "public interest" to be used as a reasonable defence in unauthorised disclosure of "protected information" did little to allay the fears of the media. The adjustments made after the consultation exercise are only minor concessions, and are far from adequate in preserving our rights and freedoms. By introducing laws which are clearly inconsistent with the Basic Law, the government has sinfully handed over the "high degree of autonomy" to Beijing.


Article 23 makes it clear that it is for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to legislate "on its own" over the seven areas. Ironically, instead of legislating "on its own", the government seeks to destroy the "one country, two systems" policy "on its own".


The government has gone from wrong to wrong, from proposing to introduce such draconian laws in the first place, to outright distortion of public opinion and manipulation of public consensus when public opinion is not on the government's side. It is most shameful of the government to have used every dirty trick conceivable to fulfil the tyrant's will. Sixty thousand people took to the streets to demonstrate against legislation. Over two hundred thousand people made submissions and signed to protest against legislation. Thousands have explicitly expressed their demand for a white paper in the consultation exercise. We hereby call for a second round of consultation with detailed proposals in the form of a white bill. Our people have shown they will never remain silent over the oppressive intents of the government. They will be even less tolerant of a government that calls falsehood truth. They never will.