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Mixed reactions as gov’t says it will withdraw controversial copyright bill if not passed next week

There have been mixed reactions towards the government’s sudden announcement that the controversial copyright amendment bill will be withdrawn if not passed in the Legislative Council next week. Whilst some have hope it will finally pass, others have urged lawmakers opposed to the bill not to let their guard down.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung made the announcement on Thursday after many weeks of filibustering the LegCo chamber. He said that the decision was in the interests of society overall, and denied that it was an act of admitting defeat. The move came after a meeting was unexpectedly adjourned on Wednesday following a miscount of the number of lawmakers in the chamber.

gregory so

Gregory So. Photo: Now TV screenshot.

Hong Kong Copyright Alliance spokesperson Lam Yuk-wah appeared on a RTHK programme on Friday morning saying he was still optimistic that there remains time for the draft bill to be passed. He said that the industry is hoping for a miracle.

lam yuk wah charles mok

Lam Yuk-wah and Charles Mok. Photo: RTHK screencap.

IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok said that he was baffled by the government’s hasty decision and that they should have discussed it with copyright holders and lawmakers.

See also: Copyright owners, netizens fail to reach consensus in Copyright Bill talks

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah also said that he was in support of the bill being passed and, like Gregory So, urged pan-democratic lawmakers to “turn back before it’s too late”.

Chairperson of the amendment bill’s committee Chan Kam-lam, said he would be disappointed if the bill could not be passed and all the effort would go to waste. He also said he had doubts that any discussion on the draft bill would be relaunched.

Glacier Kwong.

Glacier Kwong. File Photo: HKFP.

Dubbed the “Internet Article 23” by campaigners—a reference to Hong Kong’s ill-fated security law—the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014 has faced major opposition from local netizens who fear it may curb internet freedoms. They say it may not have provided enough protection for internet users when they use copyrighted materials for non-profit and personal use.

‘Shrouded in ambiguity’ 

Activist group Keyboard Frontline spokesperson Glacier Kwong said that she does not believe the government will really withdraw the copyright amendment bill and urged pan-democrat lawmakers not to let their guard down and to continue to filibuster.

“If the government had already made a decision, they should just go ahead and say that… [rather than make] this kind of ambiguous statement that shroud lawmakers and Hongkongers in ambiguity.” She also voiced concerns that the LegCo president would force an end to the filibustering in the Council.

Kwong said that, all along, they had been willing to discuss what they put forward, but the government was unwilling to propose a new plan to reach a consensus. Also, those in the copyright industry had been unwilling to let go of their prejudices towards netizens, she said.

Many pan-democratic lawmakers criticised the move, with the Labour Party’s Cyd Ho saying that the government made it feel like it was a matter not to be taken seriously, while the Civic Party’s Claudia Mo said the government was “threatening” LegCo President Jasper Tsang into ending the filibuster.

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Mixed reactions as gov't says it will withdraw controversial copyright bill if not passed next week