Democratic group determined to push forward changes for anti subversion bill

Monday, January 19, 2009
Issue 590, Page 4
Word count: 647
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The pro-democracy New Macau Association will hand in their proposed amendments for the national security bill to the Legislative Assembly today, which is one of their final attempts to voice their concerns before the bill is to go through final voting possibly next month.

Au Kam San, a member of the association and also a member of the Second Standing Committee which is currently discussing the legislation, said at the press conference yesterday that the association did not oppose the enactment, but believed that “national security and human rights can co-exist”.

In Article 2 Secession, it says that “using violent or other seriously illegal means to try to separate part of the national territory from the national sovereignty or to make it belong to foreign sovereign will be sentenced to 15 to 25 years in jail”.

In this, one of the “other seriously illegal means” refers to “destroy transportation, communications and other public infrastructure, or to impair transportation safety or communications security…”.

According to the democratic group, such an inclusion was a “strong tool to suffocate social freedom and threaten the community” as staging protests, which would usually interfere with public transport, could constitute the crime of secession.

Hence the association urged the government to remove the part of “impair transportation safety or communications security” from the definition of “other seriously illegal means” in the provision.

Meanwhile, the association said the bill must be able to define to which stage of the process a person could be convicted, in the preparation for the crimes of treason, secession and subversion against the Central People’s Government.

As the government had admitted earlier at the Assembly that it would be difficult to define preparatory acts, Au said such provision should be erased from the bill or otherwise it could be “abused [by the government] for the arrest of dissidents”.

The association also called for a more precise interpretation of “incitement” in Article 4 Sedition in order to “prevent freedom of speech from being jeopardised”.

In the consultation paper of Hong Kong’s national security bill, the government proposed that sedition was only restricted to the “printing of publications, their announcements, sales, distribution, display or copy”, which Au said was not expanded to “other modes of communication”.

However, in Macau sedition could be constituted when a person “publicly and directly incites others to commit treason, secession or subversion”.

Thus the association proposed that “advocating a change of government policies or the administration by non-violent means, as well as criticising the nation, government or officials should not be deemed as a threat to national security”.

“Expressing political ideas and delivering speeches for the freedom of academic discussion in a peaceful means” should also be ruled out from the acts of sedition, the association added.

In regards to theft of state secrets, the pro-democracy group strongly demanded “to spy into state secrets” to be removed from the article.

Au said spying was a “process” in which state secrets were not even obtained, and thus such behaviour was “unable to jeopardise or harm the nation’s independence, unification, integrity, or internal or external security interests”.

In addition, Au said since the Central government would not announce what information, documents or items had been classified as state secrets, people and especially media workers could be deemed as “having endangered national security without knowledge”.

The association thus suggested that only people “who steal or buy state secrets with prior knowledge of their confidentiality” should be prosecuted.

The democratic group also called the government to rule that “public interests and public right to know” could be used as a defence to reveal state secrets.

The Second Standing Committee will during this week meet with government representatives to discuss changes lawmakers proposed for the anti subversion bill.

Au said the association would continue to push forward their opinions to the government and Legislative Assembly in a “fair and rational way”.

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