Legislators, experts now support enactment of Article 23

Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Issue 503, Page 1 & 3
Word count: 797
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Experts from the mainland and local legislators said yesterday they supported enactment of the anti-subversion law, claiming it was an “appropriate time” to propose the legislation in Macau.

Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau Wah will present legislative works of Article 23, which was listed as a focus of the 2007-2009 Public Administrative Reform Route, at the government headquarters at 2pm tomorrow.

Macau Basic Law Article 23 is a constitutional provision relating to national security that obliges the SAR to enact laws on its own to “prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government, or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organisations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organisations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organisations or bodies”.

Speaking to the media at the Legislative Council yesterday after participating in the legal and civil rights seminar, Professor Wang Zhenmin, dean of the Law School at Tsinghua University and also a member of the Macau SAR Basic Law Committee of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said he had “full confidence” in Macau in enacting Article 23 which was “a request of good faith from the PRC”.

“I think people in Macau will support and work in line with the SAR government,” Professor Wang said.

“Macau people’s understanding about mainland China is quite strong so I think the region has the conditions to enact the law,” he added.

The law professor said he would agree with the Macau government whenever they wanted to propose the enactment which was allowed since the transfer of sovereignty on December 20, 1999, but added that “the sooner the better” for the security law to be in place.

“I think the SAR government will carry out a lot of works to enhance the public’s understanding in the purpose of drafting the Article and the content of the provision,” Professor Wang said, “I believe these works will be thoughtfully done.”

The mainland professor did not comment on whether such enactment would be “easier” in Macau than in Hong Kong as “conditions in the two SARs are different”.

“The Macau SAR government must adopt appropriate measures in order to have legislation of Article 23 completed,” he said, adding he “should not say too much” about the timetable of whether the law could be introduced before the end of 2009.

In contrast, vice president of the Legislative Council, Lau Cheok Va, told reporters yesterday despite the “piling workloads” the Council was having, they would have the capabilities to finish processing enactment of Article 23 before the next Chief Executive took office “if public consultation can begin now”.

Mr Lau said opinions should be sought from the public which would then be used as a reference for the Legislative Council to decide whether the Article should be passed.

“The majority of Macau people are patriotic and think this law should be introduced for the security of the nation,” he said, “I don’t know there is much objection about it at this stage.”

The vice president also said that it was not a matter of “either drafting or not drafting Article 23 but it must be enacted as regulated by the Basic Law,” adding it would be “a proper time” to introduce the law as “the Macau SAR has already been founded for nearly nine years”.

Meanwhile, Leonel Alberto Alves, a legislator and a member of the Executive Council, said both the Macau society and the Legislative Council were “mature enough” to initiate legislative works of Article 23 which was “an important task for everyone in the SAR”.

Mr Alves said the conflict between freedom of speech and national security was “not a concern but a topic which needs to be discussed”.

“The Legislative Council first has to consider opinions from society and lawmakers also have the responsibility to identify what suggestions can be supported as those from the majority aren’t necessarily right,” he said.

As for the Portuguese community in Macau, the Macanese legislator said they were concerned about what kinds of contributions the Article had for society and issues arisen in relation between Macau and mainland China.

Following tomorrow’s presentation by the Chief Executive, a number of consultation sessions will be staged by the SAR government in order to obtain opinions from different sectors in society about the enactment of Article 23 in Macau.

In the second half of 2002, discussion was first started about the legislation but was finally postponed due to some external factors, according to the Macao Daily News yesterday.

Mr Ho had said that there was “no room for discussion” of whether Article 23 should be enacted, adding he must complete this significant project during his second term of office, the Chinese daily reported.

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