Amnesty's human rights report disapproves Macau's security law

29 May, 2009

Macau Daily Times     By Natalie Leung

Amnesty International's (AI) latest human rights report criticised Macau for the short legislative process and the ambiguous definitions of the National Security Law.

"Amnesty International Report 2009: State of the World's Human Rights" was released yesterday. The UK-founded non-governmental organisation assessed human rights development in 157 countries throughout 2008 and analysed the impact of the global economic downturn on human rights issues.

The Macau Special Administrative Region is being mentioned in the chapter of China in the annual report.

"Between October and November, the authorities conducted a 40-day public consultation on a national security bill to prohibit acts of 'treason', 'secession', 'sedition' and 'subversion. In December, the government submitted the bill to the Legislative Assembly.

"Vague definitions of the crimes could lead to misuse of the legislation by the authorities to suppress rights to freedom of expression and association," the AI said in the report.

Amnesty's Asia-Pacific Program director Sam Zarifi on January 20 this year wrote a open letter to Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau Wah to call for a revision on the anti subversion bill and express concerns about its legislative process.

The letter pointed out that the bill would subject Macau to the "same vague and broad definitions of 'endangering state security' crimes in Part II, Chapter 1 of the People's Republic of China's criminal code.

"China's vaguely-worded provisions for 'subversion', 'inciting subversion' and 'state secrets' which also appear in the bill, have already been applied on the mainland to intimidate, detain and punish many for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association," it continued.

The AI urged Mr Ho to "clearly and narrowly define the vague concepts" outlined in the bill, and as such Macau residents' human rights would not be violated.

In addition, considering the importance of the issues and the "potential negative effects" of the law on some key human rights as set out in international human rights treaties binding in Macau, Amnesty criticised Macau for providing an "unreasonably short duration of the public consultation and the legislative process" for the legislation.

Despite concerns from an international organisation as well as internally from Macau society and some lawmakers, the controversial national security bill was eventually passed by winning near-unanimous support at the Legislative Assembly on February 25 and came into effect on March 3, 2009.

According to Amnesty International's Secretary General Irene Khan as quoted on the AI homepage yesterday, "underlying the economic crisis is an explosive human rights crisis".

She said that the global financial turbulence had aggravated abuses, distracted attention from them and created new problems.

"In the name of security, human rights were trampled on. Now, in the name of economic recovery, they are being relegated to the back seat," she added.

The AI Secretary General thus urged world leaders to invest in human rights as "purposefully" as they are investing in the economy.

"Solutions to global problems must be underpinned by global values of human rights - and those at the top table of world leadership must begin by setting an example," she said.

Amnesty yesterday also launched the new global "Demand Dignity" campaign, which will primarily demand China to ratify the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and also the US to ratify the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.