New masters play down HK changes

The incoming Hong Kong government has backed down on some of its more draconian proposals for diluting civil liberties laws after it assumes power on 1 July.

Announcing the partial climbdown yesterday, Michael Suen, the new government's policy co-ordination secretary, said that the changes were "major" and that the public's views had been "taken on board". He stated that "a proper balance between civil liberty and public order" had been struck.

More than 5,000 written submissions were received following publication of a consultative paper setting out the new administration's plans, many of which involve the reintroduction of old colonial laws.

Mr Suen maintained that it was difficult to say whether the submissions were for or against the proposals but finally conceded that opinion was evenly divided. He insisted that the new administration was not necessarily looking at the number of submissions but was "looking behind the rationale of the submissions. All public opinion polls have registered strong opposition to the idea of changing the current laws and most legal profession representatives are also strongly opposed to the changes.

Yesterday Yeung Sum, a leader of the Democratic Party, described the changes as being purely technical and said: "We are disappointed by the process of consultation and the results." The governor, Chris Patten, said: "The question remains, why was any of this necessary?"

Among the more controversial proposals to have been amended, was a plan to virtually prohibit the calling of demonstrations at short notice.

Now organisers will be required to give seven days' notice but can tell the police of their intention to demonstrate closer to the time. The police will not, as originally planned, have to issue a "Notice of No Objection".

The apparently wide ranging definition of a political organisation, which will have to register and comply with new regulations, has been narrowed to bodies whose primary aim is putting up candidates for public office. In addition, the previous idea of preventing all foreigners from contributing to these organisations has been replaced by a prohibition on contributions from overseas.

However, the government-in-waiting has maintained its controversial insistence on prohibiting the registration of political organisations which threaten national security and banning demonstrations which are likely to produce the same results.

It has declined to spell out what might be considered a threat to national security, aside from saying that it involves challenges to "the safeguarding of the territorial integrity and the independence of China". Instead of detailing what this means, the government will publish administrative guidelines which will not have the force of law.

Meanwhile, in Peking, a government advisory committee has finalised plans for a new election system, designed to reduce the presence of pro-democracy members in the territory's legislature.

The proposals, from China's Preparatory Committee, would change the voting system in geographical constituencies to introduce multi-seat constituencies where electors would only be able to vote for one candidate.

In past elections, the Democratic Party and its allies swept the polls. China would not like to see this repeated when it finally holds elections for the legislature in about a year's time.

This convoluted plan, which is heavily weighted against popular parties, appears to offer the best hope of pushing more pro-Peking members into office.

Britain attacked the plans, saying they were totally unjustified. "The proposals contained unnecessary restrictions and rightly aroused widespread concern both in Hong Kong and internationally." the Foreign Office said in a statement. "It was right to consult the people of Hong Kong. We are pleased that the new proposals take some account of some of the anxieties expressed."

The statement continued: "But we remain concerned at the elements of the revised proposals which still do not fully meet the concerns of the community and which represent a step backwards from present arrangements."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Asset Finance Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - ASSET FINANCE - An outstanding...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Assistant Marketing & PR Manager

£16 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

Project Manager (App development, SAP, interfacing)

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum + excellent company benefits: Clearwater People Solu...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment