Why PAP is terrified of citizens coming together

July 10, 2003
Singapore Democrats

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The PAP does not fear the odd forum letter in the Straits Times calling for democracy or dissenting views on the Internet. This is because it knows it can contain these opinions and ensure that the majority of the population does not see the groundswell against it.

The PAP is, however, dead set against allowing Singaporeans to conduct protest marches and public rallies because it also knows that public opinion can be galvanized and, more important, impressed upon the government through mass gatherings. This is why the Government continues to defy the Singapore Constitution by banning marches and, in the process, violating the right to freedoms of speech and assembly of Singaporean citizens.

If anyone still has any doubts about the PAPs fear of public gatherings and the impact these protests have on government policy, then the article below should dispel them. The Hong Kong people, half a million of them, decided to have a get together to let their leader, Mr Tung Chee Hwa, know of what they thought about his (and Beijings, of course) desire to enact Article 23, Hong Kongs equivalent of our Internal Security Act.

Often criticized for being materialistic and politically apathetic, the people of Hong Kong have shown tremendous courage in standing up to the dictators in Beijing. They should be proud of their efforts to exert their rights as citizens of China. Singaporeans should pay attention.

Hong Kong Delays Security Bill After Cabinet Member Quits
Keith Bradsher
The New York Times
7 July 2003

In an unexpected victory for democracy advocates, Hong Kong’s chief executive temporarily postponed a contested internal security bill this morning after the leader of a pro-government political party resigned from the cabinet in protest.

The decision by the chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, followed a protest march against the legislation on Tuesday by as many as 500,000 people nearly a tenth of the city’s population and represented a rare triumph for public opinion here. Many here regard the stringent security legislation as the true transition to Chinese rule, six years after Britain ceded Hong Kong to China.

Mr. Tung did not say how long he would defer the bill, and he left open the possibility that he might try to win approval for it this summer. Mr. Tung said he and the other members of the Executive Council wanted the Legislative Council to defer action on the bill and would “step up our efforts to explain the amendments to the community in the coming days.”

But a quick revival could prove difficult. Mr. Tung deferred the legislation early this morning after James Tien, the chairman of the pro-business Liberal Party here, resigned from the Executive Council.
On Friday, Mr. Tien had publicly called for the legislation to be deferred until December. Without the support of the eight Liberal Party members on the60-member Legislative Council, the government lacks the votes to win final passage of the security bill,which sets stiff penalties for sedition, secession, treason and other offenses.

Richard Tsoi, a spokesman for the Civil Human Rights Front, a coalition of pro-democracy groups that organized the protest march on Tuesday, welcomed Mr. Tung’s decision but said another demonstration would take place as scheduled on Wednesday because Mr. Tung could still try to push the bill forward.

The postponement “shows that Hong Kong people have the courage, the power, to stand up and change history,” Mr. Tsoi said.

In an earlier response to the protests, Mr. Tung softened the legislation considerably on Saturday,accepting three of the most important amendments sought by democracy advocates, while rejecting more than 100 other amendments introduced by critics in the legislature.

Mr. Tung agreed on Saturday to delete provisions that would have allowed the police to make searches and seizures without warrants during urgent security investigations. They also would have allowed the government to outlaw groups linked to organizations banned in mainland China. Mr. Tung also agreed that people accused of the “theft of state secrets” could defend themselves with the argument that they had acted in the public interest.

But Mr. Tung then insisted that the Legislative Council begin final consideration of the bill on Wednesday.

The government’s retreat came not only after Mr. Tien’s resignation but also after growing concerns that further protests might turn violent. Mr. Tsoi’s group planned a demonstration by 50,000 people on Wednesday evening to surround the Legislative Council in the downtown business district.

Pro-Beijing groups appealing to Chinese patriotism had planned their own demonstration at the same time in favor of the bill.

Mr. Tsoi said the police had been refusing to issue a permit for the gathering of his group, the Civil Human Rights Front, unless it promised that fewer than 6,000 people would attend. Mr. Tsoi said the front had insisted on holding a demonstration anyway, with no limit on numbers. After Mr. Tung’s decision, Mr. Tsoi said he was “more confident it will be a peaceful and orderly public meeting.”

Pro-democracy lawmakers have started a letter-writing campaign for Mr. Tung to resign. It is procedurally difficult for the Legislative Council to impeach him.

But his support from Beijing may be weakening. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao offered little praise for him during a visit here just before the march. Mr. Tung’s reversal today is nonetheless a humiliating setback for Beijing. The march on Tuesday had been compared here to the big pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989 in Beijing that preceded the Tiananmen Square killings, and some China experts had predicted that
Beijing would not tolerate any retreat by officials here that might suggest that it was giving in to public pressure. Beijing banned news coverage of the march on the Chinese mainland, however, and appears to have censored Internet sites.

Beijing sent mixed signals over the past several days about whether it would accept a delay in the legislation. Mr. Tien flew back to Hong Kong from Beijing on Friday, saying two senior Chinese officials had told him that Hong Kong was free to decide the timetable and content of the security legislation on its own.

Ma Lik, the secretary general of the larger of the two pro-government parties, the nationalist, pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, said in a phone interview on Saturday that Beijing could accept a few amendments but wanted the bill passed quickly.