Politicians from pro-Beijing parties have urged the government to withdraw the controversial new copyright bill, and start fresh rounds of consultations.
The controversial bill, dubbed “Internet Article 23,” has faced major opposition online from Hong Kong’s netizens, who are worried that usage of copyrighted works, even if only for personal use and not for profit, could lead to a criminal investigation, and also raising concerns that new amendments could make it an offence to live stream game-playing and to screen capture TV shows or movies.
The Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) says it will not block the bill from passing, but has suggested the government should withdraw it and restart the consultation process.
FTU lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin said on Monday that the opposition to the bill was strong and the arguments given by the government in supporting it were not convincing enough to persuade people that it must be passed, Apple Daily reported.
Wong added that Director of Intellectual Property Ada Leung has not provided adequate arguments as to why the government cannot accept the amendments by the pro-democracy camp to include a “fair use” provision – which could protect the right to create non-profit derivative works.
Leung said that the government has not consulted the public about the “fair use” provision.
In response, Wong said that this would be a reason to suspend the bill for a new round of consultations.
‘I would not mind the government withdrawing’
Felix Chung Kwok-pan, chairman of the Liberal Party, also agreed that it may be good to restart consultations. The party had said it will support the amendments proposed by the pro-democracy camp, but if the amendments are voted down, its lawmakers would support the bill, except lawmaker James Tien Pei-chun.
But Chung said that the party’s caucus may change its stance after a meeting on Tuesday.
New People’s Party vice-chairman and lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun said on Tuesday that the bill would benefit copyright owners and netizens.
But he added that if the bill was too controversial and would cause further splits in society, “I would not mind the government withdrawing the bill… if more time is needed for people to get closer [to a consensus].”
Holden Chow Ho-ding, vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), had tried to convince his party to support the amendments proposed by the pro-democracy camp, saying they would provide better protections for netizens.
However, DAB lawmaker Ip Kwok-him and convenor of its caucus, said that the party’s stance has not changed, that it will vote down the pro-democracy camp amendments and support the bill.
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung said that he has not heard that any pro-Beijing camp members have changed their stance.
The government has not made any changes to the bill or accepted the amendments by the pro-democracy camp.
The Legislative Council will resume the bill’s second reading on Wednesday.