SCMP Friday, December 8, 2000
Stop fabricating stories, Elsie Leung tells media
NO KWAI-YAN in Beijing and STAFF REPORTERS
Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie accused the media yesterday of fabricating reports about mainland officials' views on the Public Order Ordinance.
She said Wednesday's remarks by Qiao Xiaoyang of the National People's Congress (NPC) referred only to the past.
Mr Qiao, vice-director of the NPC Standing Committee Legal Affairs Commission, said that in 1997 the committee had decided not to adopt the version of the ordinance relaxed in 1995 by the pre-handover government. He indicated that Beijing was against an easing of the law - which governs protests - now proposed by pro-democracy groups.
Miss Leung declined to respond to a question about whether Beijing had set the scope of amendments to the ordinance. But she commented: "What Mr Qiao Xiaoyang said was only history. You should not make up stories."
A government source said last night that the SAR should not risk reinstating the amendments repealed by the NPC. "I don't think either the Government or the Legislative Council will be so irresponsible to put forward such amendments." The change made in 1995, and rejected by the NPC in 1997, was to allow protesters to demonstrate after notifying police. Before 1995, protesters had to apply for permits from police before demonstrations took place.
"We should put aside this history and see whether there is a need to amend and in what way the ordinance should be amended," the source said.
Democrats and human rights groups said Mr Qiao's remarks would not stop them trying to change the legislation. Calls for relaxation of the ordinance have been growing since student leaders were arrested after unauthorised assemblies in April and June.
Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, a lawmaker representing the legal profession, said the Standing Committee had rejected the pre-handover protest law as it had been amended to comply with the Bill of Rights. The committee had ruled that the human rights bill's power to repeal other laws was a violation of the Basic Law.
Bar Association vice-chairman Philip Dykes said laws had to change with the times. "If this gentleman [Mr Qiao] is assuming that what has been suggested or proposed is to go back to the old version, that is not what is happening in Hong Kong," he said.
"They are simply suggesting that changes can be made to the ordinance which should make it a better ordinance."
- Charles Ho Tsu-kwok, honorary chairman of the Sing Tao newspaper group, has expressed support for the ordinance. Mr Ho, the first representative of the mass media, submitted his views in his capacity as a businessman to legislators yesterday. He said the freedom enjoyed by Hong Kong people was no less than that enjoyed by people in the United States.