UK Parliament Debate Article 23 – Two Chairmen Express Concern

On 26/11/02, the UK House of Commons conducted a debate on the widely-opposed Article-23 legislation in Hong Kong.

Mr. Howard Flight MP who is a joint chairman of the all-party House of Commons Hong Kong committee initiated the parliament debate. He told MPs “The debate centres on whether the proposals are essentially a modernisation of archaic laws—which is, broadly, the Hong Kong Government's argument—or whether they are a beginning of the application of mainland concepts of national security, under something of a disguise.”

He explained “There is an argument of principle that it [Article 23] is in breach of the provisions of the joint declaration, as it calls for the application to Hong Kong of legal concepts that are incompatible with the freedoms guaranteed by article 3(5) of the joint declaration. …

“It is argued that the Hong Kong laws that would prohibit subversion against the mainland Central People's Government could be contrary to the articles of the international covenant on civil and political rights relating to freedom of expression.

He exposed the Jiang regime’s pressure: “In June, matters came to a head when the Chinese Vice-Premier Qian Qichen was reported as saying that the Government of Hong Kong should get a move on with enacting article 23 ... He claimed, however, that it would be illegal for Falun Gong members to retain links with Falun Gong practitioners outside Hong Kong—that is, on the mainland.”

He stressed, “A main concern is that the legislative proposals could potentially allow the Government to ban any organisation of which the Beijing Government disapprove, where provisions in the area are not even specifically required by article 23 of the Basic Law.”

“Few states have express laws against secession and many do not have laws against subversion. The mainland concept of national security is very different from what we are all used to in democratic countries. The deal agreed under the joint declaration was that the PRC concept of national security would not be applied to Hong Kong.”

He also exposed the fact that “The mainland Government have traditionally used the offence of subversion to persecute and suppress legitimate opposition.”

He expressed his concern about the proposal which could allow the Chinese regime to force the ban of organisation in Hong Kong that it does not like: “they [HK authorities] propose a new mechanism for banning organisations affiliated with a mainland organisation that the central authorities have proscribed in accordance with national law, on the grounds that it would endanger national security. In that context, affiliated means connected. The key concern is that if such an organisation is proscribed on the mainland, Hong Kong is notified. There will inevitably be such evidence of past or present connections between such organisations that the Hong Kong Government are effectively obliged to ban them.”

He specifically stated that the HK government “must demonstrate” that “they would not be forced to ban organisations that were banned in the mainland.”

Mr. Ben Chapman, another co-chairman of the Hong Kong committee and also the chairman of the all-party group on China said “The House has continuing responsibilities in relation to Hong Kong under the terms of the joint declaration, because of its intrinsic importance and our major investment and commercial, cultural and educational interests there. Also, we have an interest in the 3.4 million British passport holders in Hong Kong, especially the British nationals overseas.

Like everything else in Hong Kong, Article 23 needs to be seen in relation to the "one nation, two systems" concept, and against the background of the maintenance of confidence—internal and external—which drives the Special Administrative Region. I fear that Qian Qichen's comments do not seem entirely helpful when put in that context, or in the context of democratisation.”

He also commented “In my view, the present ministerial system is not sustainable in the long term” and “Progress towards universal suffrage is inadequate”.

Source:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmhansrd/c
m021126/halltext/21126h01.htm#21126h01_spnew46

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