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Mass Rally Planned to Underscore Concerns About Hong Kong Anti-Subversion Law - 2003-07-09


Opponents of Hong Kong's proposed anti-subversion laws plan to surround the legislature to underscore their concerns that the proposed laws threaten civil liberties. A mass rally on July 1 and the subsequent resignation of a key ally led Hong Kong's leader to delay a final vote on the laws, originally scheduled for Wednesday.

Organizers are pushing ahead with the rally to emphasize opposition to the proposed laws, which they say will curtail freedom of expression and religion.

Chief Executive Tung Chee-Hwa on Sunday removed some of the most controversial provisions, such as banning groups that are already outlawed on mainland China and giving police extended powers of search.

But Hung Ling Yu, a spokeswoman for Hong Kong's Catholic Dioceses, says her group still opposes the laws. She says she and fellow Catholics will gather to pray for unconditional freedom of religion in Hong Kong.

The Catholic Church is banned in mainland China, and critics have warned the introduction of the controversial anti-subversion laws could be used to control Catholics in Hong Kong.

Law Yuk Kai, who heads Hong Kong's Human Rights Monitor, says labor unions, professionals and students are planning to join. He says he is concerned about a police decision to restrict the movement of protesters.

"The police arrangement may be a bit too stringent… they are not going to close a section of the road to ensure they will be able to gather in one area," he said.

Beijing says the anti-subversion laws are necessary for national security. The issue, however, has created the biggest political crisis in Hong Kong since the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.

Chief Executive Tung Chee-Hwa's leadership is being called into question, after he first ignored the public outcry and then changed the laws.

Mr. Tung was eventually forced to postpone the final passage of the laws when a traditional supporter quit. Since then, a number of pro-Beijing lawmakers have suggested the leader needs to rebuild support in his Cabinet before proceeding with the laws.

Hong Kong has a separate legal, economic and judicial system from Mainland China and enjoys freedoms not allowed there.