Patten defends rights bill

Hong Kong (AP) - The Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, urged the people of the territory yesterday to speak out against the pro-China camp's proposal to water down freedoms enshrined in Hong Kong's Bill of Rights.

The recommendation by the legal panel of the Preliminary Working Committee, a body appointed by China to oversee the 1997 handover, shocked Hong Kong. Mr Patten warned that any move to tamper with the Bill of Rights would do "immeasurable damage". He added: "I just hope that everybody ... who believes in that fundamental importance of the rule of law will stand up for it."

The legal panel said the 1991 Bill of Rights could not override the Basic Law, the constitution China has written for post-1997 Hong Kong, and that amendments bringing laws into line with the Bill of Rights should be repealed.