Sun, Jul 06, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan to keep eye on HK bill

INDIRECT IMPACT The controversial proposed national security act could have a bearing on all individuals and groups that have ties with Taiwan and Hong Kong

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Although a controversial national security law expected to be enacted by the Hong Kong government this coming Wednesday will not have a direct bearing on Taiwan, political observers said that Taiwan nonetheless should keep a close eye on its development.

"Taiwan has every reason to stay watchful of the developments surrounding the proposed law because the law's underlying implications could have an indirect impact on all individuals and groups that, one way or another, have ties with Taiwan and Hong Kong," said Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒), a political observer and editor-in-chief of Contemporary Monthly magazine.

The new law, proposed by the Hong Kong government to be passed under Article 23 of its Basic Law, prohibits any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the People's Republic of China or theft of state secrets.

The law also allows the police to search private property without a warrant if a threat to national security is suspected. It also bans political organizations and groups in Hong Kong from having contact with similar groups abroad.

Once the law is enacted, it would also grant the authorities the power to silence political opponents and control the press under the pretext of protecting national security.

While the Hong Kong government insists it is necessary to pass the law, the majority of the Hong Kong public deem the proposed law as one that threatens their freedoms and fundamental rights.

As a result, approximately half a million Hong Kong people protested in the streets on Tuesday, instead of commemorating the 6th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China.

The furor over the proposed law raised foreign governments' eyebrows and the EU expressed its concern that the law could "undermine Hong Kong's autonomy." The US passed a nonbinding House resolution that urges the Hong Kong government to withdraw Article 23 as it would stifle the basic freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.

Given the ambiguity of definitions phrased in the proposed law, Chin said the law would give the Hong Kong government the power to ban any organization that it judges to be a threat to China's national security.

"That is to say, individuals or groups that comment or make moves of any sort that China's authorities see as sensitive and pose a challenge to the Chinese Communist Party, would risk the possibility of time spent in jail under the new law," Chin said, citing examples such as ties to the Falun Gong spiritual movement, Taiwan's independence, possession of official documents and the like.

Outlawed in China as a threat to state security, the Falun Gong meditation group is branded by Chinese authorities as an "evil cult" though it remains legal in Hong Kong.

"In other words, any Taiwanese tourists or press groups visiting Hong Kong in possession of a pro-Taiwan magazine, or who make casual remarks that they know of friends involved in the Falun Gong meditation group, could easily find themselves in trouble with the law before they know it," Chin said.

Echoing Chin's concerns, Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) cited National Chi Nan University professor Byron Weng (翁松燃) as an example and said that all Taiwanese like Weng, who also have Hong Kong residency, would have to be careful of what they do and says in view of the new law in order to avoid landing in hot water in Hong Kong before they are even aware of it.

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