Although Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has made it clear that the enactment of Article 23 of the Basic Law isn’t on her policy agenda this year, the Hong Kong Bar Association has taken it upon itself to revisit the issue once more to prepare for any possible legislative initiative to mounted by the administration in the coming days.
Since the beginning of this year, the Committee on Constitutional Affairs & Human Rights under the Bar Association is said to have already renewed its scrutiny of Article 23 by thoroughly referring to both the original bill proposed by the government back in 2003 and some of the most recent overseas court cases on national security issues.
According to the association’s website, its Committee on Constitutional Affairs & Human Rights is currently chaired by barrister Po Wing-kay. Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun, the first and so far only honorary senior counsel in Hong Kong, and senior counsel Hectar Pun Hei are vice chairmen.
Both Chan and Pun specialize in human rights studies. And rather coincidentally, both of them were recently barred from teaching a legal course on common law provided by the Bar Association to Peking University students.
Nevertheless, some members of the Bar Association have stressed that relaunching a study of Article 23 doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to publish any report on the issue anytime soon.
What the association is doing right now, they said, is to prepare itself and get updated on the issue so that once the government initiates a public consultation on the enactment of Article 23, it can give a timely response to the subject.
Over the years the Bar Association has remained quite outspoken on controversial legal issues such as the government’s attempt to enact Article 23 back in 2002 and 2003, as well as, more recently, the passage of the co-location arrangement proposal through the National People’s Congress Standing Committee regarding the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link.
Back in July this year, at a tea gathering with the media, Lam said the enactment of Article 23 has always remained at the back of her mind, and she would embark on it once Hongkongers begin to have great faith in the government.
That being said, the Bar Association’s ongoing efforts at studying the issue definitely won’t go to waste, because it is just a matter of time before the government renews the enactment of Article 23.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept 15
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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