1 July 1997


Speech from the Legislative Council Balcony by Democratic Party Chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming

As we approach the end of the 20th Century, the world community can take pride that more people in more countries are more free than ever before. But as the world is marching towards democracy, human rights and the rule of law, Hong Kong is losing some of the very freedoms which have made our society so successful.

Today, the whole world is witnessing the return of Hong Kong to our country, China. This is a glorious day for all Chinese people everywhere. For we are leaving behind the legacy of more than 150 years of British colonial rule and begin a new era for Hong Kong as part of China.

The members of my party, the Democratic Party, were among the first to support China's resumption of sovereignty over Hong Kong. We therefore fully uphold the 1984 Joint Declaration and its guarantees of "one country, two systems" and "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy". In the spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation, we intend to work with China to ensure the success of Hong Kong and China.

But the Joint Declaration promises that we will have an elected legislature and that our freedoms will continue under the rule of law. In supporting the Joint Declaration, we insist that all the promises made in 1984 be honoured and in full. So we are here today to voice the determination of the people of Hong Kong who elected us in 1995 for a 4-year term to keep our democratic institutions, rule of law and freedoms.

Hong Kong and China have much to offer each other. We want to work together to make "one country, two systems" a reality. But Hong Kong and China must advance together -- not step back together.

We are Chinese. We are proud to be Chinese and that Hong Kong is no longer ruled by Britain. But we ask ourselves this question: why must we pay such a high price to become Chinese again?

Why should we not be able to form associations or to demonstrate as freely as before? Why should we lose the most important safeguards of our Bill of Rights? Why should we lose the modest amount of democracy we fought so hard for and won from the British government?

Since 1990, Hong Kong people have been able to participate in democratic elections. Democracy has taken root and flourished here in Hong Kong. Over one million people elected the members of our legislature which is disbanded today. We ask our Chinese rulers to give Hong Kong more democracy, not less, now that we are re-united with our motherland.

"One country, two systems" is a brave experiment. It requires full understanding on the part of our Chinese leaders and mutual trust, which has yet to be established.

But the Beijing leaders cannot win the trust of the people of Hong Kong by rejecting a legislature elected by Hong Kong citizens and replacing it with a China-appointed one. Or by rolling back individual freedoms and our Bill of Rights. Or by striking down other laws that have the support of our people. The way to win the hearts and minds of Hong Kong people is to give more democracy -- not to stifle it. Elections have ensured stability in Hong Kong; they have protected our freedoms and underpinned our economic success. In order to preserve the rule of law, we must not only have an independent judiciary -- but good laws. To have good laws, we must have democratic elections to guarantee that our legislature is accountable to us, the people. We had an elected legislature. But from today on, we have an appointed Provisional Legislature, accountable only to Beijing.

The appointed legislature which is being sworn in later this morning is doing its best to change the electoral laws to make it difficult for us to continue winning elections. But they will be disappointed. For though they can physically take over this building for sometime, they cannot keep us out of the legislature forever. For we know we have the confidence and support of our people, who -- when given the chance -- will vote us back into this building once again.

We believe that people everywhere share our love of freedom and democracy and that these values will ultimately triumph -- not only in Hong Kong -- but across Asia and the world. And we know that as elected leaders we have the heaviest responsibility to ensure that Hong Kong remains free.

Hong Kong is known as the "Pearl of the Orient." But what is it that gives the pearl its great lustre? It is freedom. Freedom exercised to the full by our people and guaranteed by the rule of law. If our freedom is taken away, the Pearl will lose its lustre and indeed its value to China and the world.

The international community expects China to honour her promises to the UN and to Hong Kong people. In the eyes of the world, we call on the Chinese government to allow free, fair and democratic elections in Hong Kong immediately.

We announce our party's intention to stay in Hong Kong. We are prepared to defend the freedoms we cherish. And we are prepared to work with China to build a better future for Hong Kong and for China. We pledge to continue to be the voice of the Hong Kong people -- in or out of office -- and to fight to get democracy back.

As we stand here this early morning in democratic solidarity, we declare that Hong Kong people want democracy -- they have seen it work. The flame of democracy has been ignited and is burning in the hearts of our people. It will not be extinguished. Nay, it will only grow stronger. We say to those of you gathered here and to Hong Kong's friends around the world: WE SHALL RETURN!

Today, China is a big country. But our vision is that one day soon China will be a truly great nation -- where the human rights of every Chinese citizen are respected and protected by law.

| Home | Meet Martin Lee | About the Democratic Party | Press Releases | Recent Articles | District Activities | July 1 Manifesto | Photo Archives | Downloadable | Constitutional Documents | Related Sites | Search | FAQ | Feedback |

Copyright © 1998 The Democratic Party. All Rights Reserved.