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.
Hong Kong has a duty to enact the law
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.
Clarifications, amendments take public's views into account
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:
Three controversial provisions deleted
* Delete the provision regarding a local organisation subordinate to a mainland organisation which has been proscribed by the Central Authorities.
* 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.
* 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.
Legislative process will go ahead as 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.
Reviving the economy most important issue
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.
Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa gave this address at a media briefing on July 5, 2003.