National Security Law set to be in force in 2009

Thursday, October 23, 2008
Issue 505, Page 1 & 3
Word count: 896
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The draft of the National Security Law prescribed by Macau Basic Law Article 23 was yesterday released by the SAR government which proposed seven kinds of subversion acts that could put offenders in prison for up to 25 years.

Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau Wah, who chaired the press conference at the government headquarters, also announced the beginning of the public consultation of the legislation which will run until November 30, 2008.

According to the draft which has a total of 15 articles, acts of treason, secession and subversion against the Central People’s Government will serve a jail sentence of 15 to 25 years.

For acts of sedition, one to eight years of imprisonment is proposed.

People who are found guilty of theft of state secrets involving national defense, foreign affairs or confidential documents or information could serve two to eight years in jail.

Those who are instructed by governments, organisations, bodies or their staff other than in the Macau SAR to steal state secrets could face three to ten years in jail.

In addition, foreign political organisations or bodies are prohibited from conducting activities against Chinese national security in Macau, or otherwise they could be fined between 10,000 patacas and 20 million patacas.

Similarly, political organisations or bodies of the Macau SAR are prohibited from establishing ties with foreign political organisations or bodies to carry out activities that will put Chinese national security at risk. Offenders will not only be fined, but their groups will have to be dismissed as ordered by the court.

However, a person could be jailed for 30 years if found guilty of more than one kind of subversive act. It is also the maximum sentence a court can hand out according to the Penal Code of Macau.

As well, preparation acts of treason, secession, subversion, sedition or theft of state secrets could serve a maximum three year imprisonment.

Additional punishment including suspension of political rights for three to 10 years could also be handed out pending the severity of the crimes.

According to Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau Wah yesterday, the enactment of the National Security Law was to restore the “legal vacuum” after the transfer of sovereignty in 1999.

It was because the Penal Code of Portugal regulating national security ceased its validation in Macau upon the establishment of the SAR.

“Defending the nation’s sovereignty, unification, territorial integrity and security is the basic constitutional responsibility,” Mr Ho said.

“In order to perform the policy of ‘One Country, Two Systems’, the nation didn’t extend its relevant law to Macau but authorised the SAR through the Basic Law to enact its own law,” he said, adding that “it reflects a high degree of trust from mainland China to Macau and its people”.

Thus, the Chief Executive said protecting national security was a “sacred mission” for the whole of Macau, and was an “absolute obligation” that the SAR government had to perform.

During the drafting process of the law since 2004, Mr Ho said residents’ basic rights and freedom including speech, information and publication regulated by the Macau Basic Law were “strictly guaranteed and protected”.

“The content of the draft doesn’t only comply with Article 23, but also maintains a balance between national security and preserving people’s basic rights and freedom,” he added.

The Chief Executive also said that only “serious crimes” would violate the National Security Law, adding “chanting slogans or writing articles commenting on Macau and the Chinese central government will not be prosecuted”.

Mr Ho said he believed that the law could be passed within 2009 as he had “always wanted to complete the task in his term of office”.

“Before, we concentrated on the revision of the three electoral laws. So it’s time now to start consulting the public and later pass the draft to the Legislative Assembly for deliberation,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Chief Executive said during his presence at the Macau Media Workers’ Association celebration event last night that the SAR government would continue to protect press and publication freedom.

He also said that he hoped Macau’s journalists could “persist in a fair and impartial manner in news reporting, continue to defend the press freedom and put forward suggestions and criticism so that the government can do a better job.”

Meanwhile, Secretary for Public Administration and Justice, Florinda Chan, said yesterday at the government headquarters that reporters would not be prosecuted when “in touch of state secret documents”, as the law proposed that only “steal, spy on or bribe for” state confidence, which are intentional crimes, would be seen as endangering national security.

Secretary Chan also said that in the process of studying the enactment of the National Security Law beginning 2002, the SAR government compared relevant laws in other countries which also adopted civil law system such as France, Germany and especially Portugal.

Five consultation meetings will be held today, October 24, as well as on October 27, October 28 and November 5 at the Tourist Activity Centre at 8pm for different social sectors as well as the general public to express their opinions about the proposal of the National Security Law.

Copies of the draft can be downloaded at http://www.gov.mo/basiclaw23/ or ccrj.org.mo.

Until November 30, opinions can be sent to the Legal Reform Office by email consultation@grj.gov.mo, fax +853 28750814, or post to 6th floor, CNAC Building, 398 Alameda Dr. Carlos D’ Assumpção, Nape.

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