SCMP Saturday, November 11, 2000

Protest law debate may be delayed


A motion debate on the controversial assembly law may be postponed by one month after legislators endorsed the delay request yesterday.
A Security Bureau spokesman said it would consider the request but had not yet made a decision.
At the Legco House Committee yesterday, Liberal Party legislators joined their pro-democracy counterparts to seek the debate's postponement by 23 votes to 18.
The proposal came from Emily Lau Wai-hing of The Frontier, who asked the Government to defer the debate to December 20. The administration said this week it would sponsor a Legco motion on November 22. It said existing provisions on public meetings and processions should be preserved.
The Public Order Ordinance requires seven days' notice for processions of more than 30 people and assemblies of more than 50.
Democrat James To Kun-sun yesterday said: "The hidden political meaning here is to let legislators endorse the law again. Why does the Government not follow the proper procedures and let us have a thorough discussion first?"
Secretary for Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee will meet human rights groups to discuss the issue on November 25 - three days after the planned debate. A security panel public hearing on the issue would be held on December 7, said Mr To.
Democratic Party vice-chairman Dr Yeung Sum said the Government bid had infringed its promise to improve relations with the legislature.
Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong legislator Chan Kam-lam said: "When the law was enacted by the provisional Legislative Council, the topic has already been fully discussed."
Non-affiliated Ng Ching-fai said it would be better to hold the debate as soon as possible to avoid people defying the law again and taking to the streets without notifying police.
Legislators, including Democrat Cheung Man-kwong, and unionists Lee Cheuk-yan and Leung Yiu-chung have protested against the Public Order Ordinance.
Liberal Party chairman James Tien Pei-chun said it was reasonable to defer the debate to let more people air their opinions.