RTHK "Letter to Hong Kong"

by Martin Lee

Broadcasted on 13 May 2001 on Radio 3, Radio Television Hong Kong

The Fortune Global Forum was officially opened by President Jiang Zemin last Tuesday and it was officially closed by former President Clinton on Thursday. It was hailed as a total success by the government here, but was it?

Perhaps we should first ask what did we want the participants to the forum to get out of this? Of course we wish to see as a result of the conference more and more large foreign corporations coming to Hong Kong to invest here. So, what impression did we want them to have on Hong Kong? A city where all dissent is suppressed as in Mainland China? Or a city where freedom thrives? Of course the latter, everyone will say. Well, then we must accept that free trade goes hand-in-hand with other freedoms, like the freedom of speech and the freedom of demonstration. In other words, you cannot separate freedoms into parts and say, ˇ§we'll give you freedom to do business here, but not the freedom to protest.ˇ¨

This is particularly so when Hong Kong's economy is now based on finance and technology -- so we require our people to have creativity and free thinking. It is precisely for this reason that our government has always said that the success of the ˇ§one country, two systemsˇ¨ policy is confirmed by the number of demonstrations staged in Hong Kong since the hand-over.

But last week was exceptional because the Hong Kong Government was worried that President Jiang Zemin might see the Falun Gong followers in action. So we were told by the police that they had deployed three thousand policemen in order to deal with whatever situation which might arise. So Hong Kong was ready even for foreign protestors coming to Hong Kong. Of course, they never came, apart from some Falun Gong followers from other parts of the world.

So was it necessary for the police to use any force at all on what Hong Kong people know as the usual suspects, people like Long Hair and so on, who are not known to be violent people? Indeed many of our citizens watched TV news in dismay as members of the police force encroached upon the rights of not the Falun Gong followers, but the other well-known protestors.

But the police seem to be happy with what they did and they had the support of senior government officials. But unfortunately for them, concern was expressed openly by the US, British and Australian consulates here because many of their citizens were denied entry into Hong Kong - those who were known to be Falun Gong followers. And perhaps even more unfortunately, for the Hong Kong government even the organizers appeared not to have been too happy with the way the government had handled these matters.

So what message did we actually give to the foreign press and the foreign participants to this forum? I'm afraid it is a pretty negative one, because I suspect that some, if not many of them, will go back to their respective countries thinking that perhaps the Hong Kong government had been too hyper-sensitive to dissent. And worse still, they may think Hong Kong people enjoy freedom with Chinese characteristics.

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