While the Patriot Act has come under fire in America for tampering with civil liberties, a similar piece of legislation in Hong Kong — Article 23 — was repealed this fall following mass protests by the city’s inhabitants.

Article 23 was one of four topics addressed by eight New Asia College students at a symposium Tuesday afternoon in the McDougal Center at the Hall for Graduate Studies. The students, visiting Yale from Hong Kong on a two-week exchange program, also discussed the overlap between law and the environment, social development and discrimination.

Teresa Tse, a second year medical student at New Asia College, which is part of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, described Article 23 as a national security bill against sedition, secession and treason. Hong Kong’s government repealed the bill this September after half a million people marched in protest on July 1.

“People went to the streets because they were afraid this article would harm freedom of speech, freedom of assembly,” said Carol Luk, another student at New Asia College.

Some of the students who participated in the march said the experience was inspiring.

“Elderly people, people who were blind, people in wheelchairs were making the march,” Karen Kwan, a New Asia College student participating in the exchange, said. “We’ve been through SARS, economic downturn. This event revived the spirit of the Hong Kong people.”

Tse spoke further about changes in Hong Kong’s legal system. She said until 1994, only indigenous male villagers could vote or stand for election in local government. When the Court of Final Appeals — Hong Kong’s highest court — declared that policy to be unlawful, the government granted women and nonindigenous residents increased political rights. Tse explained the reasoning behind the court’s decision.

“You can’t infringe on other peoples’ rights, in spite of your own traditional practices,” she said.

The New Asia College students will spend two weeks with their Yale student hosts, learning about the American legal system. This morning they visited the American Civil Liberties Union office, and tomorrow they will hear Charles Hill discuss changes in America after Sept. 11, 2001. They will also visit historic and cultural landmarks in New York City and Washington D.C., including the United Nations, Ground Zero and Capitol Hill.

During spring break in March, the eight Yale students will travel to Hong Kong, where they will visit the department of justice, the police headquarters and the legislature. They will present topics on the American legal system at a similar symposium at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on “Law and Society,” the theme of this year’s exchange program.

Ingrid Jensen, program officer at the Yale China Association, said the program is ideal because it creates a balance between academic and cultural exchange. Furthermore, she said the students themselves plan and execute every activity, so that they gain valuable leadership and teamwork skills.

“It’s such a great opportunity for undergrads to learn about and look at an issue from different perspectives,” she said.

Tiffany Clay ’06, one of the Yale hosts, said she is enjoying the exchange and was particularly impressed by the symposium.

“The Hong Kong students — were very knowledgeable, and they managed to give a general overview of the relationship between law and society,” she said. “[They] also focused on specific manifestations of that relationship, such as the confrontation over Article 23.

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