Provisional Legislative Council
PLC Paper No. 284/96-97
Paper for the House Committee
Meeting on 24 May 1997
Legal Adviser (Bills Committee)'s Report
on Public Order (Amendment) Bill 1997
Objects of the Bill
To amend the provisions relating to public processions in the Public Order Ordinance (Cap. 245) (the Ordinance).
Provisional Legislative Council Brief Reference
2.A Brief for Provisional Legislative Council on Societies (Amendment) Bill 1997 and Public Order (Amendment) Bill 1997 issued by the Chief Executive's Office (CE's Office) dated 15 May 1997.
Date of First Reading
3.17 May 1997
4.In light of the enactment of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance (Cap.383), the Public Order Ordinance was amended to relax the control on public meetings and processions in 1995. The amendment made in 1995 repealed the requirement of applying to the Commissioner of Police for licence for organizing public procession and replaced it with a notification system. The Commissioner may prohibit the holding of public meetings or public processions if he reasonably considers such prohibition to be necessary in the interests of public safety or public order.
5.On 23 February 1997, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China (PRC) resolved that major amendments to the Public Order Ordinance introduced in 1995 shall not be adopted as the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). It also resolved that the HKSAR should enact laws on its own to avoid legal vacuum arising on 1 July 1997.
6.This Bill now seeks to modify the notification system. The Commissioner of Police may object to a public procession being held if he reasonably considers that the objection is necessary in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public) or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. (Clause 7). The concept of national security and the protection of the rights and freedoms of others are introduced. According to the interpretation section in Clause 2, "national security" means the safeguarding of the territorial integrity and the independence of PRC.
7.If the Commissioner of Police objects to the public procession being held, he shall notify the person who gave notice of his objections and reasons. (Clause 7). The applicant to hold a public procession can appeal against the objection to an appeal board known as The Appeal Board on Public Meetings and Processions as provided in sections 43 and 44 of the Ordinance. The Chairman of the Appeal Board is a retired Justice of Appeal or judge of the High Court, a retired District Judge or a retired magistrate of 10 years' service.
8.Transitional arrangements are also provided in the Bill for any person who intends to hold a public procession on 1, 2 and 3 July 1997 respectively and notice of intention must be given in writing to the Commissioner of Police for a public procession to be held on 4-9 July 1997 before 27 June 1997.
9.According to the Brief, a Consultation Document on "Civil Liberties and Social Order" (the Consultation Document) was published on 9 April 1997 and the CE's Office received over 5,000 submissions on the Consultation Document.
Consultation with Provisional Legislative Council
10.The Provisional Legislative Council held a motion debate on the Consultation Document on 10 May 1997. During the motion debate, the Secretary for Policy Co-ordination, Mr Michael SUEN, addressed the Provisional Legislative Council. The motion moved by Hon Bruce LIU as amended by Hon Mrs Elsie TU was passed stating that any amendments to the Public Order Ordinance shall be made according to the following principles:
- the provisions of the Basic Law should be complied with;
- the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as applied to Hong Kong should be observed; and
- a right balance between civil liberties and social order should be maintained.
11.Some drafting aspects of the Bill need to be clarified with the CE's Office. During the House Committee Meeting held on 17 May 1997, Members agreed that a Bills Committee be set up to examine this Bill in detail.
HO Ying-chu, Anita
Legal Adviser (Bills Committee)
Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
20 May 1997