It was with dismay that Friends of Falun Gong in Ireland heard about the proposals to introduce a new law to Hong Kong based on Article 23 of the Basic Law.
Attached is a copy of a press release on this subject produced for circulation in Ireland (below). It contains an outline of the concerns which we would have with this legislation. We would also fully concur with the statements made on this subject by Amnesty International, including their press release of 9th December 2002, and the Joint Statement issued by Amnesty and 9 other local NGOs on 18/11/02.
As they stand, the proposals made by the Hong Kong government go far beyond what is needed to implement Article 23. As listed, the offences named are so vague and ill-defined that they are contrary to international law which states that criminal offences must be clearly and specifically stated in any legislation. They also threaten freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the right to freedom of expression, the right to peaceful assembly, and the right to freedom of association. To threaten any of these rights is contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
If the Hong Kong government wishes to continue to be seen as a democratic, open and free society then it must abandon the implementation of this proposed law. Not to do so threatens all those who live and work in Hong Kong, including those of its citizens who wish to practice Falun Gong, and those who wish to defend the right of others to do so. Not only is this a concern to those who live in Hong Kong, but Hong Kongs many friends world wide are watching the developments there with increasing misgiving. We hope that the government will reconsider this unfortunate and unnecessary proposal.
(Spokesperson For the Friends of Falun Gong in Ireland)
The Hong Kong government has produced a Consultation Document stating that it plans to introduce a new law against treason, secession, sedition and subversion.
Spokespersons in Hong Kong for the legal profession, the Democratic Party, local businessmen, human rights organisations, journalists and academics have all expressed fears that this new law will lead to a deterioration of human rights and the rule of law in Hong Kong. In particular, the rights of Hong Kongs people to freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of association and freedom of information will be threatened if the proposals become law.
The new law will be based on Article 23 of the Hong Kong Basic Law, or constitution, but the present proposals are so vague that if implemented as outlined in the Consultation Document the government would be given a legal weapon to deny, rather than to protect, peoples rights.
The proposals include :
· the provision to proscribe any organisation in the community which has been banned on national security grounds by the central government in mainland China. Groups such as Falun Gong, and the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of the Patriotic Democratic Movement in China would be almost bound to be banned under such a provision.
· police to be given the power to enter and search premises and seize material without warrant merely for investigative purposes.
· provisions to make it unlawful to disclose state secrets without any indication of who will decide what is a state secret. This will certainly impact on press freedom.
· provision that non-nationals in Hong Kong may also be subject to these new laws.
The practice of Falun Gong is currently legal in Hong Kong. However, the authorities there have already moved to use public order legislation against Falun Gong members peacefully demonstrating against the imprisonment of practitioners in China. Now Falun Gong members in China fear that they, along with many others, will be subject to banning, and possibly jail. The penalties proposed under the new law include jail sentences up to life imprisonment.
Friends of Falun Gong in Ireland call on the Irish government to express it extreme concern to the Hong Kong authorities at the proposed passing of this draconian piece of legislation. The imprisonment, torture and killing of Falun Gong practitioners in China must not be allowed to occur also in Hong Kong.
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