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Editorial﹕Handle amendment controversy within the system

【明報專訊】AMID controversy over the amendment of the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, the government has reiterated that the second reading debate on the bill will resume tomorrow (June 12) as scheduled. Meanwhile the anti‑amendment movement is about to escalate. Preparations are being made for a siege of the Legislative Council, while some groups and businesses are answering the call for strikes, by both employees and employers, and a boycott of classes. Now that a head‑on clash is imminent, the situation is worrying.

The anti‑amendment mass demonstration on Sunday was full of sound and fury. Views differ as to its turnout, but even Chief Executive Carrie Lam admits it is beyond doubt that many people took to the streets. In 2003 there were 500,000 people on the march against Article 23 legislation. Several days later the government gave in and withdrew the bill. This time around, the government has not indicated that it will do the same. Instead it has reiterated that the work to amend the ordinance will continue, and the second reading debate on the bill will resume tomorrow. Carrie Lam mentions the government's tasks in four aspects: intensive explanation of the aims of the amendment, earlier explanation to the Legislative Council for the measures for better protection of human rights, regular reports to the Legislative Council on how the law is being enforced, and speeding up negotiations on long‑term extradition agreements with other regions. The government hopes that these measures will dispel public doubts. But it is very doubtful whether they will be sufficient to change the stance of those opposed to the amendment.

The government has acted rashly and underestimated the backlash from the public. The manoeuvre of different political forces has also made the issue more than about the arrangements for transferring fugitives. A complex issue, the amendment of the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance requires in‑depth consideration and extensive consultation. But it must be said that some of those who took part in the mass demonstration have reacted to the amendment in a way that goes beyond the amendment itself, an example being the worry that freedom of speech in Hong Kong will be snuffed out right away. This reflects a strong sense of scepticism about China. Even if the government launches an extensive consultation exercise and revises the amendment proposal, it will not be able to change their views.

After the mass demonstration on Sunday, the convener of Civil Human Rights Front called on lawmakers to vote against the amendment bill during its second reading. A fully‑fledged society with a complete set of practices and institutions, Hong Kong has the capability to handle the crisis in accordance with the mechanism and procedures. The best efforts should be made to handle all matters within the system. No one should talk lightly about resorting to means outside the system. The government will definitely pay a hefty political price for pushing ahead with the amendment. At this critical juncture, society must remain calm and rational. It must not embark on the path of violence and self‑harm. At this stage, there are few options that will allow a "soft‑landing". Acting in accordance with the existing mechanism and procedures and letting members of the Legislative Council to follow their conscience when casting their votes is a more appropriate thing to do.

The Legislative Council is the embodiment of public opinion. Every lawmaker should accurately reflect public opinion. If any lawmaker acts against it, voters will punish them with their votes. Judging from the current political situation, it might not be easy for lawmakers to put aside their collective political stance and the influence of other political forces when casting their votes. But it might not be that difficult. The crux of the matter is political courage and determination. A veto on the amendment by the Legislative Council will give all sides a way out of the political dilemma. Lawmakers from all parties should think carefully about how they will vote.

明報社評 2019.06.11﹕修例危機按制度處理 勿讓香港墮動盪深淵

《逃犯條例》修訂爭議,政府重申明天如期恢復二讀辯論,反修例行動亦有升級之勢,除了準備包圍立法會,亦有團體和商戶號召罷工罷市罷課,一場硬碰蓄勢待發,情况叫人憂心。

周日反修例遊行聲勢浩大,儘管實際人數說法不一,然而行政長官林鄭月娥亦承認,遊行人數非常多毋須爭議。2003年50萬人遊行反對《基本法》23條立法,數天後政府妥協撤回草案,不過今回暫時未見政府有此打算。政府重申修例工作繼續,明天在立法會恢復二讀辯論,林鄭提出四方面工作,包括密集解說修例目的、提早向立法會交代加強人權保障政策聲明的內容、日後定期向立法會匯報條例執行情况,以及加快與其他地區磋商長期移交逃犯協議,希望釋除公眾疑慮,然而這些舉措是否足以令反對者改變立場,確是一大疑問。

政府倉卒修訂《逃犯條例》,低估民間反應,加上不同勢力政治操作,事態早已不是單純關於移交逃犯安排。修訂《逃犯條例》事關複雜,應該從長計議廣泛諮詢,可是話說回來,部分遊行人士對修例的反應,諸如擔心香港言論自由毁於一旦等,明顯已經超出修例一事,投射的是強烈「疑中」情緒,就算政府展開廣泛諮詢、調整修例內容,也不會改變他們的看法。

周日遊行過後,民陣召集人呼籲議員在立法會二讀條例草案時投反對票。香港是一個成熟社會,有完善典章制度,有能力按機制和程序解決危機,任何問題都應該爭取在機制內處理,不應輕言訴諸制度以外的手段。政府強推修例,一定會付上沉重政治代價,際此關鍵時刻,社會必須冷靜理智,不要走上暴力鬥爭自殘的歧途。修例爭議來到這一步,實現「軟着陸」的選擇不多,根據現有制度和程序辦事,由立法會「良心投票」,是較為妥當的做法。

立法會是民意代表機構,每位議員都應該真實反映民意,如果背逆民意,選民可以用手上一票懲罰他們,「票債票償」。以當前政治形勢,議員不受政治立場綑綁和政治力量支配去投票,說易不易,說難其實亦不難,關鍵僅在於是否有政治勇氣和決心。由立法會否決修例,可以為各方提供政治下台階,各黨派議員應慎思投票取向。

■Glossary

reading﹕one of the stages during which a bill (= a proposal for a new law) must be discussed and accepted by a parliament before it can become law

snuff out﹕to stop or end sth in a sudden way

embodiment﹕a person or thing that represents or is a typical example of an idea or a quality

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