Following is the transcript of a meet-the-media session by the Chief Executive, Mr Tung Chee Hwa, today (July 5) on the march on July 1 and the legislative proposals to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law:
On July 1, despite the sizzling hot weather, hundreds of thousands of citizens took to the streets to express their concern over the legislative proposals to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law, their dissatisfaction over Government policies, and over my governance in particular. On that day, I watched the march on television from early afternoon until the evening. And indeed over the past few days, I have convened various meetings, meeting different people, including special meetings of the Executive Council, to discuss the concerns and the aspirations of the community as a whole. I fully understand the community's sentiments. I will respond to them in the coming days but today I would like to concentrate on the legislative proposals to implement Article 23.
I have repeatedly stressed that it is the duty of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the citizens of Hong Kong to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law and to safeguard our national security. It is a matter relating to the national dignity and the glory of the Chinese race. Safeguarding national security is the prerequisite for the successful implementation of "One Country Two Systems"; it is a prerequisite for maintaining the good relations between Hong Kong and the Mainland; it is a prerequisite for revitalising the economy and safeguarding our long-term interests. The Hong Kong SAR Government's position on such an important matter of principle is both firm and clear.
After extensive discussions and consultations lasting about a year, the SAR Government has made a number of clarifications and introduced 51 amendments to the National Security (Legislative Provisions) Bill, taking into full account all the views and suggestions of the public. These amendments have made the Bill more liberal in many aspects than existing laws. Also with these amendments, the Bill compares favourably with similar legislation in other common law jurisdictions.
But we also have listened and understand that the current concerns of the community over the legislative proposals are mainly focused on three provisions. In the special Exco meetings held over these past few days, we have reviewed the issues in great detail. In order to further allay the concerns of the public, we have now decided to introduce further amendments as follows:
(1) Delete the provision regarding a local organisation subordinate to a mainland organisation which has been proscribed by the Central Authorities.
(2) Introduce "public interest" as a defence for unlawful disclosure of certain official information, in order to protect and alleviate the concerns of the public, particularly those of the media.
(3) Delete the provision which confers on the police a power to search without court warrant in the exercise of their emergency investigation powers.
The SAR Government has started to work on these amendments. The National Security (Legislative Provisions) Bill will resume second and third reading on July 9, as originally scheduled.
The Government must press ahead with the legislative process as scheduled because everybody clearly knows that we have the responsibility and the constitutional duty to enact laws to protect national security. Our community has been highly politicised over this issue. Our community will be further divided if we remain undecided on this issue. Now, we are proposing amendments to the three provisions that, in the final analysis, have in fact sparked most of the controversies. We believe it is right to resume second reading and third reading in the Legislative Council as scheduled.
Division is damaging to Hong Kong. Stability is the cornerstone of our success in the past. I suggest everybody should reflect rationally about how to maintain stability in Hong Kong and to properly manage some of the fundamental relationships, help maintain our stability, including our relations with the Mainland and the international community. The citizens who took part in the march on July 1 showed their mettle in a rational and orderly manner. Indeed, this is a prerequisite for the stability of Hong Kong. Hong Kong is now in a very difficult position and we are having to take on many challenges. The most pressing issue we face is to revive the economy as soon as possible. I appeal to our community and to you all to complete the legislative process for the Bill as soon as possible, so that we can focus our efforts and work together to get our economy going again.
Thank you very much.
Reporter: I am from Le Monde. You mentioned you have been having many consultations with the public in the last few days, as well as many extraordinary LegCo meetings. It is my understanding that you have not met anyone from the pro-democracy camp, the ones who actually organised the rally. Can you tell us why you are not meeting with Margaret Ng, Emily Lau, Martin Lee etc.?
Chief Executive: We have made all these changes because we have carefully listened to the views expressed by all the people. I have met many people over the last few days. I will be meeting more people today and on Monday and Tuesday. And specifically with the Democratic Party, I have initiated and organised a meeting on Monday, if I remember correctly.
Reporter: Francis Moriarty, RTHK. Mr Tung, to some degree, even Article 23 or amending Article 23 is to a certain degree no longer the issue. The issue has become you and your governance. What are you going to do to improve your performance?
Chief Executive: Francis, as I said earlier on, today I want to focus, to talk about Article 23, because it is a very important issue. I hear the concerns expressed by the people of Hong Kong, and we will be taking resolute action on that front too. I have said that in the future, I will be talking with the public at large on these issues. Today I will be focusing on Article 23.
Reporter: But with respect, sir, the handling of Article 23 is linked to how you handle other things. If you insist on moving ahead with this when there's perhaps a majority or a near majority in favour of withdrawal, it's only going to suggest to people that you are further out of touch with what they want.
Chief Executive: Let me tell you this. The concern of the people is with regard to three issues in which we have now made amendments. I think the public at large understands the importance of having a good relationship with the Central Authorities and of having Article 23 enacted. The concern is about the content of the legislation, and the concern specifically, or most overwhelmingly, is about these three points. And on all these three points, we have listened carefully to the views of the people and we have made appropriate amendments to them.
End/Saturday, July 5, 2003