Gov’t may cut back minimum jail sentence in anti subversion bill

Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Issue 592, Page 3
Word count: 433
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The government is going to review the penalty range for treason, secession and subversion in the national security bill, as some lawmakers suggested that the lower limit should be reduced from 15 to 10 years which will then be “more consistent” with that in mainland China.

The Second Standing Committee for the first time met with government representatives including Secretary for Administration and Justice, Florinda Chan, at the Legislative Assembly yesterday, where officials were briefed about what possible changes could be made in the bill.

Fong Chi Keong, the president of the standing committee, said despite a majority of the lawmakers agreed with how the articles were expressed, some deemed that some concepts and wordings could “threaten human rights such as freedom of speech”.

Fong affirmed that every single opinion heard during the meetings would be listed in the summary report for the government.

As it was already mentioned in the last meeting that a small number of lawmakers hoped to have the minimum jail sentence for treason, secession and subversion reduced by five years to 10 years, Fong said the government promised that they would look at the possibility of cutting it back to either 10 or 12 years.

The anti subversion bill currently suggests a 15 to 25 year imprisonment for the three crimes.

In contrast, serious offenders against national security in China could be sentenced for between 10 years and a life sentence.

Fong said the lawmakers thought that as Macau was part of mainland China, the penalty range should be “similar to each other” in defending national security.

With regards to other proposed changes in articles regulating secession, subversion against the Central People’s Government and sedition, the committee president told the media after the meeting that the government “very likely will not compromise and make big amendments in the bill”.

“The government stands firm for the content and their clarifications repeatedly stress that the articles are composed according to Macau’s Penal Code and anti-terrorism act,” Fong said.

Some lawmakers insisted that the government needed to remove “destroying or interfering with transportation and communication facilities” from one of the “other seriously illegal means” defined in Article 2 Secession.

The government was also requested to clearly define “preparatory acts” in the bill, but Fong said once again the representatives “did not have intention to make such a change”.

The standing committee will have another meeting with the government at 4pm today to continue discussion on the bill starting from Article 5 Theft of State Secrets.

Fong said after today’s meeting the deliberation process for the bill will become “closer to conclusion”.

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