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09HONGKONG232 2009-02-09 00:16:00 CONFIDENTIAL Consulate Hong Kong
Cable title:  

MACAU ARTICLE 23 HEADS FOR FINAL VOTE WITHOUT

Tags:   PGOV PHUM MC CH 
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1. (C) Summary: The Macau Government submitted a revised
Article 23 Bill text to the Legislative Assembly February 3.
The minimum sentences for treason, splittism and subversion
have been lowered to ten years' imprisonment from fifteen
years. However, the government and Legislative Assembly have
rejected, apparently without substantive consideration,
revisions proposed by democratic New Macau Association
legislators January 19. NMA's revisions would have clarified
provisions on "preparatory acts", more clearly linked alleged
incitement charges to actual crimes, and provided an explicit
public interest defense for journalists revealing classified
information. The bill is expected to come up for a final
vote either the week of February 9 or the week following, and
should pass as now written. End summary.



--------------------------


Nearing the End


--------------------------





2. (SBU) The revised text submitted by the Macau government
to the Legislative Assembly (LA) February 3 likely represents
the bill which will become law. As widely reported in the
media, the government accepted recommendations from the LA
Second Standing Committee (which is reviewing the bill) to
lower the minimum sentence for treason, splitting the
country, and subversion against the central people's
government from fifteen to ten years' imprisonment.
Advocates held this put the penalty in line with similar
offenses under Mainland law (although the maximum penalty in
Macau is twenty-five years, while on the Mainland it is life
imprisonment). Another amendment changes the effective date
of the law to the day after its publication, rather than
thirty days following publication as stated in the December
text. The remaining changes are largely technical fixes
which do not change the scope of the law.



3. (SBU) Second Standing Committee Chair Fong Chi-keong, of
the pro-government General Union for the Good of Macau, has
predicted in the press that the bill will go to a vote
sometime between February 9-20. The bill is expected to pass
easily. Of 29 legislators, only Antonio Ng and Au Kam-san of
the proto-democratic New Macau Association (NMA) opposed the
text in its initial reading in the LA, with
democratic-leaning civil service union rep Jose Coutinho
abstaining.



--------------------------


Amendments Rejected


--------------------------





4. (SBU) In an open letter to the Legislative Assembly
January 19 -- the only other substantive revisions proposed
during the LA's deliberations -- NMA's Ng and Au called for
eight specific changes to the text. They are:

-- Remove "jeopardize transportation security or
communication security" from the list of "other serious
illegal methods" in describing offenses under the law. NMA
argued that ordinary protests frequently disrupt normal
transport, and feared this language could be used to
criminalize peaceful marches;

-- Either clarify the threshold at which "preparatory acts"
become criminal, or delete the language;

-- Limit the crime of incitement to only those cases in
which "open and direct" incitement leads immediately and
directly to a criminal act;

-- Specify at Article IV (Incitement to Insurrection) that
"non-violent methods of putting forth political advocacy or
academic discussion do not fall under the scope of this law;"

-- Remove the term "pry into" (ci tan) as a criminal means
of acquiring state secrets at Article V (Theft of State
Secrets);

-- Also at Article V, require that a person who stole or
purchased a state secret did so with full knowledge of the
secret and consequently harmed national security;

-- Add specific "public interest" and "public's right to
know" defenses to Article V offenses; and

-- Change Article V, Section 2 language on foreign support
of the theft of state secrets from "receive from a government

HONG KONG 00000232 002 OF 002


outside the Macau SAR" to "receive from the government of a
foreign country" (to eliminate Hong Kong, Taiwan and the
Mainland.)



5. (C) Chairman Fong had told the press as early as January
13 that "I don't think there is much room to amend the bill."
He nevertheless stated on January 21 (two days after NMA's
letter was issued) that all views would be reflected in the
committee's report to the government (presumably sent prior
to the issuance of the revised text February 3). The
proposals found no more support in the government than in the
LA, and none were adopted in the revised text. Fong was
quoted February 3 as dismissing the NMA proposals, saying
"mainstream views of society and the Standing Committee"
viewed them as "redundant".



6. (C) A Macau academic contact told us independent weekly
San Pou supported the NMA proposals, while pro-Beijing daily
San Wa Ou criticized NMA; any other media reporting was
fact-based (with NMA receiving coverage at least in the
English-language papers). NMA's Au and Ng also confirmed by
e-mail their proposals had been rejected, with Au warning,
"the devil remains in the detail, foreshadowing the
possibility for the police to abuse their power and for the
government to deal with dissidents."
DONOVAN