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Protesters Disrupt Hong Kong Legislature - 2003-02-26

Two protesters disrupted Hong Kong's legislature as lawmakers prepared to discuss a controversial anti-subversion law.

Two protesters burst into the main chamber of Hong Kong's legislature demanding the government drop plans to introduce laws under Article 23, a bill aimed at protecting China from acts of subversion, treason, sedition, and secession in Hong Kong.

Secretary for Security Regina Ip urged lawmakers not to delay passing the legislation and says she hopes the bill will be law by July. The leader of Hong Kong's pro-democracy party, along with a small number of elected legislators, walked out of the session in protest.

About 200 members of more than a dozen interest groups protested outside the building. While some groups say the legislation could be used to limit freedoms and groups not allowed in mainland Communist China, other demonstrators shouted support for the bill, saying the laws were necessary for national security.

Among those opposing the bill are the Falun Gong religious sect, which is banned as an evil cult on the mainland, members of Hong Kong's pro-democracy party and people representing workers' rights.

Tam Cheung-Yim is a member of the Confederation of Hong Kong Trade Unions. "We are afraid that if the law is passed by the legislative council our voice and our human rights will be sacrificed," he said. "This government is not elected by the Hong Kong people, this government is representing the interests of the Chinese Beijing government. So what they do and what they did for this legislation is just for the safety of the Communist party."

The bill drew large protests during a three-month public consultation period that ended in December. The legislation has been amended, according to the Secretary for Security. But critics are angry because the government refused to release the complete wording of the proposed legislation during the consultation period.

Furthermore, many fear the bill's passage through Hong Kong's lawmaking body, which is dominated by pro-Beijing and big business interests who side with the government, will amount to little more than a rubber stamp.

Article 23 was inserted into Hong Kong's mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law, at the behest of Beijing before the territory reverted to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. Beijing has repeatedly called for Hong Kong to pass legislation under Article 23 because it is concerned that Hong Kong might be used to subvert China's security.