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Thousands Rally for Hong Kong Law

Demonstrators cite security as a reason to back proposed anti- subversion measure.

December 23, 2002|From Reuters

HONG KONG — More than 10,000 Hong Kong residents rallied in support of a controversial anti-subversion law Sunday, in opposition to critics who say it would roll back freedoms and rights.

Waving miniature flags, they broke into patriotic songs, clapping and cheering as prominent pro-China politicians spoke in favor of the legislation.

"The country's security is everybody's responsibility!" they chanted, sitting on the ground in the former British colony's Victoria Park.

The demonstration involved trade unions, political parties, schools, and civic and grass-roots groups and followed a massive march last Sunday by protesters who denounced the legislation as undemocratic. Organizers of last Sunday's rally estimated that crowd at 60,000, while police said 12,000 turned out initially.

Hong Kong's constitution requires it to enact such a law, which Beijing is eager to see introduced to keep hostile, foreign forces from using the Chinese territory as a base from which to subvert mainland China. Hong Kong was returned to Chinese control in 1997.

The bill's passage though the mainly pro-China legislature is practically assured.

Under the plan, people could be jailed for life for treason, sedition, subversion of and secession from the mainland.

Hong Kong rights groups fear the law could be abused by authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong.

Authorities have repeatedly said the law would not be used to repress political dissent and that legal concepts from the communist mainland would not be used to curb rights.

Organizers said there were 40,000 participants at the rally, although police estimated the number at 16,000.

In a recent survey of more than 600 local journalists, 56.2% said the subversion law would affect their work and 10% said they would quit the profession when the law was passed.

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