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Activists vow to fight Hong Kong surveillance law

Activists vow to fight Hong Kong surveillance law

Rights activists vowed to continue their fight against a new snooping law yesterday as government officials sought to quell fears it would curb civic freedoms.
The bill allows authorities to monitor private communications with telephone wire taps, e-mail scans and other covert techniques.
Officials say it is necessary to help protect law and order but critics say it erodes civil liberties and would foster an atmosphere of suspicion of authorities.
A day after it was approved by lawmakers, following a marathon debate that saw an angry walk-out by opponents, activists were considering ways to continue their protest.
"We are examining ways we can ensure this legislation is corrected," said lawmaker James To, security spokesman for the leading opposition Democratic Party.
The bill was forced through after a court censured the government for having no covert surveillance law on the statute book.
The city's highest court gave officials until today to pass relevant legislation.
As a result, opponents say the government was forced to hastily draw up legislation that was flawed and full of loopholes.
During the record 57-hour debate opposition lawmakers sought some 200 amendments, all of which were refused.
"There is going to be a lot of challenges to this in the courts," To said.
To and fellow legislator Margaret Ng, a top-level barrister, had sought to win a two-year expire date for the law, in a so-called "sunset clause" that would allow time to rewrite the bill.
Law experts, however, said any kinks in the legislation could be ironed out in the course of legal proceedings as judges begin giving their interpretations of its provisions.
Although officials vowed the law would be used only to fight crime and not for political purposes, activists warn that anyone remotely connected to politics, non government organizations (NGOs) or who had a record of speaking publicly against the government could expect to be spied on.
"I believe our system is as good as those among the most democratic jurisdictions in the world, the public can rest assured about that," China-appointed political leader Donald Tsang was quoted as saying in the South China Morning Post.
Snooping licenses will have to be approved by a panel of judges, the first of which is expected to be appointed on Wednesday, according to a security secretary Ambrose Lee.


Updated : 2021-10-26 14:21 GMT+08:00