by Zhang Jiawei
MACAO, March 2 (Xinhua) -- Macao promulgated the national security law on Monday, filling the legal vacuum having existed since the establishment of the Special Administrative Region (SAR)a decade ago.
The law will be effective from Tuesday.
The government-draft bill on national security was firstly submitted to the Legislative Assembly in last December, and passed with big majority in its first and second readings at two plenums held at the SAR's Legislative Assembly respectively in January and February this year.
The bill was firstly presented to the public on October last year for public consultation. To calm public concerns that the new law may lead to the infringement of residents' rights and freedom, the SAR's Chief Executive Ho Hau Wah personally attended a series of public meetings and explained the purpose of the legislation to representatives from all walks of the society.
According to the statistics from the SAR government, a total of 784 pieces of opinion were collected during the bill's public consultation period last year, of which 657 pieces came from individuals and 127 from local civil groups, with 86.76 percent ofthe individual and 96.85 percent of the civil group in favor of the bill respectively.
The SAR government will make effort to strike a balance between protecting national security and safeguarding residents' rights and freedoms, said Florinda da Rosa Silva Chan, the SAR's secretary for administration and justice. She made the remark after the bill was approved by the Assembly last week.
Chan also said that the SAR government will step up training of legal personnel in dealing with the new law.
The legal system of Macao has long been running without a national security law ever since Portugal's locally applicable state-security legislation became invalid when Macao returned to the motherland in 1999.
Under the new national security law, a prison term of 10 to 25 years can be meted out for Chinese nationals who committed crimes of treason, secession or subversion against the central government, and the "preparatory acts" of the above three crimes can also be punished with a maximum sentence of three years in prison. In the case of a combination of crimes related to state security and other crimes, the prison term can reach 30 years, which is also the maximum allowed in the SAR's Penal Code.
Local lawmaker Leong Heng Teng said the peace and stability of the nation will also guarantee the sustainable social development of Macao.
He said the consultative and legislative processes leading to the bill's approval by the legislature was a proof of Macao people's patriotic passion for the nation.
By passing the bill, the Macao SAR has fulfilled its "constitutional duty, and this was a very important step for Macao's legal sector," the Liaison office of the Central People's Government in Macao said in a statement issued after the bill was approved.
Despite the sweeping support for the national security law, disputes over certain legal clauses of it still existed. Two local lawmakers Ng Kuok Cheong and Au Kam San has previously said that some "grey areas" can be found in the law, such as the clauses concerning the definition of theft of state secrets through espionage and "preparatory acts" of treason, secession or subversion.
Both of them voted against some legal clauses of the national security bill in the second and final reading at the Assembly last week, when the bill underwent article-by-article vote. They even held a candle-lit sit-in campaign in front of the Assembly building a day before the vote on the bill, which was participated by no more than 15 persons.
Last October, when presenting the bill to the public, the SAR's Chief Executive, Ho Hau Wah, has said certain acts, such as chanting slogans and writing articles that criticize the government, will not be regulated by the new law, according to the Macao Post Daily.