HK anti-subversion law non-specific, official says


HONG KONG, AP

Seeking to calm public concerns about an anti-subversion law Hong Kong must someday enact, the territory’s justice chief was quoted Friday as saying it won’t target specific groups such as the Falun Gong meditation sect.

“The law is not aimed at imposing sanctions on any group,” Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung said in remarks carried by local newspapers.

Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law, calls for an anti-subversion law to be passed, and many analysts believe it will happen during Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa’s second five-year term that begins Monday.

Many here fear the law will be used to stifle free speech, particularly criticism of mainland China.

“The anti-subversion law will cause huge problems,” said Margaret Ng, a pro-democracy lawmaker. “We will be much more vulnerable once that law is passed.”

Leung said “freedom of speech should be protected.”

But according to an account in the South China Morning Post, Leung would not say whether the law could ban people from shouting slogans such as “down with Jiang Zemin,” the Chinese president. That would depend on how the law was worded, she said.

Leung said the law would not target Falun Gong, the meditation sect banned in mainland China as an “evil cult” although it remains legal in Hong Kong.

Nor would it target a local activist group, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of the Patriotic Democratic Movement in China, which has been branded as subversive by Beijing, Leung said.

Leung said there will be a public consultation period before the anti subversion bill is introduced, but she declined to be drawn on the timing.