On 2 December 2019, Hon Au Nok-hin and Hon Chu Hoi-dick proposed to introduce a member’s bill to amend sections 18 and 19 of the Public Order Ordinance concerning the definition and maximum penalty for the offences of unlawful assembly and riot respectively.
Hon Au Nok-hin said the proposed amendments are mainly aimed at reducing the maximum penalty for unlawful assembly and riot to 6 months and 3 years respectively, and abolishing the element of “breach of peace” as an element of the offences and substituting it with “actual use or threat of violence”. The proposed amendments also involve increasing the number of persons assembled for the offence of riot from 3 persons to 12 persons, and add “common purpose” as an element of the offence.
As a matter of fact, Article 74 of the Basic Law provides :
“Members of the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region may introduce bills in accordance with the provisions of this Law and legal procedures. Bills which do not relate to public expenditure or political structure or the operation of the government may be introduced individually or jointly by members of the Council. The written consent of the Chief Executive shall be required before bills relating to government policies are introduced.”
We consider that since the bill involves amending the penalty and elements of criminal offences, it clearly involves government policy, and therefore the consent of the Chief Executive is required before the bill can be introduced.