HKJA Condemns Government's Refusal to Defer National Security Bill
Urges Wide-ranging Review of Provisions
The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) is deeply disappointed that the government, in refusing to defer the final vote on the National Security (Legislative Provisions) Bill, has refused to listen to the voices of more than half a million Hong Kong people in the July 1st march from Victoria Park to the Central Government Offices.
The HKJA condemns the government’s decision to proceed to a vote in the coming week. We urge the government to reconsider its stance on this vital issue, and call on legislators to support calls for deferment, so that the government may carry out a wide-ranging review of the provisions of the bill.
We note the changes that the government has proposed, namely the inclusion of a public interest defence in the Official Secrets Ordinance, the scrapping of powers which would allow the police to carry out search and seizure operations without a court warrant, and the deletion of the proposed proscription of Hong Kong organizations.
The HKJA believes these changes are far from adequate for the proper protection of freedom of expression and media freedoms. If the government proceeds with its plans to move to a final vote next week, we call on it to take the following actions:
1) Delete the sections on sedition and handling of seditious publications, which pose
the greatest threat to media freedoms. At the very least, it should incorporate all elements of principle 6 of the Johannesburg Principles and impose a six-month time limit on prosecutions.
2) Scrap the new offences in the Official Secrets Ordinance, or at the very least include proper public interest and prior publication defences. The public interest defence should be worded in the following terms: “It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under this Ordinance to prove that the disclosure or retention of the information, document or other article was in the public interest.”
The HKJA fears that if the government fails to delete offending articles and adopt adequate safeguards, the media and other freedom of expression practitioners would face grave dangers which would ultimately endanger the public’s right to know and Hong Kong's aspiration to become a regional media hub and world city.
HKJA Executive Committee
July 5th 2003