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Australia bashes Article 23
7/7/2003



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Statement on Hong Kong's Draft National Security Bill - Media release by The Hon. Christine Gallus, Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Australia

Media Release
PS13 - 3 July 2003

Statement on Hong Kong's Draft National Security Bill

The Australian Government has taken a close interest in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government's progress in enacting national security legislation, as provided for under Article 23 of Hong Kong's Basic Law.

In February this year, the Hong Kong SAR Government introduced a draft bill to the Legislative Council, which went some way towards overcoming our concerns.

Further amendments announced on 3 June show the Hong Kong Government's readiness to address concerns raised during public consultations about the protection of core civil liberties.

We very much welcome the significant clarifications and improvements now provided in the draft bill.

However, the Australian Government still has concerns in some areas. In particular, the proposal for proscribing affiliates of organisations banned in the Mainland has the potential to weaken civil liberties, the independence of the Hong Kong legal system and the commitment to 'One
Country, Two Systems', all of which have been vital to Hong Kong's continued success.

The Australian Government has already registered its concerns about the impact of the proposed legislation on civil liberties in Hong Kong, especially those related to freedom of speech and freedom of association.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Downer, discussed these concerns during his visit to Hong Kong last November. Australia's Consulate-General in Hong Kong also registered the Government's concerns in discussions with Hong Kong SAR Government authorities and through a public statement issued on 18 December last year.

We commend the Hong Kong SAR Government for its willingness to continue to listen to the views of the people of Hong Kong and the international community on these matters.

We urge it to make every effort to ensure that civil liberties are not lessened by the proposed legislation.

We encourage it to consider further amendments with the aim of introducing a law to protect national security while also preserving the existing rights of the people of Hong Kong.

Contacts: Shane Fairlie (Office of Mrs Gallus) 02 6277 4840, Valerie Grey (Departmental) 6261 2213

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