14 November 1999

WTO Accession Can Fast-track China's Development of the Rule of Law

The Democratic Party of Hong Kong has long supported China's WTO accession.  In a letter sent this week to the US President, Chairman Martin Lee underscored the importance to China's long term development that the current discussions succeed.  He also offers Hong Kong Democrats' assistance in ratification should the negotiations reach a favourable conclusion.

Attachment: Martin Lee’s letter to President Clinton dated November 14, 1999

For inquiries, please call Winnie Kwok at 9216-3454.


November 14, 1999

President William J. Clinton

The White House

Washington, DC 20506

c/o Mr. Klosson and by fax: 202-456-2461

 Dear President Clinton:

In the year and a half since I last saw you in Hong Kong, there have been many changes in the US-China relationship, both setbacks and progress. As you might imagine, we in Hong Kong have closely followed the negotiations over China's accession to the World Trade Organization.  

As Chairman of the Democratic Party of Hong Kong, I wanted to write to assure you that as elected representatives of Hong Kong people, we strongly support China's accession to the WTO. We do so not only because it would be of tremendous long-term benefit to China and to Hong Kong as part of China, but also because we believe it represents the best long-term hope for China to become a member in good standing of the international community. In Hong Kong, we have long seen the benefits of free markets and global competition. We also believe that China should be admitted to the WTO to enhance the development of the rule of law in the world's largest country.

Now that you have reached a critical stage in the negotiations over China's accession, we fear that should these negotiations or ratification fail, it could take many more years to reach this point once more.

Thus, I am writing to ask you to consider several relevant points. First, China's joining the world trade club is obviously good for the new economic world order. Indeed, the benefits are not only to China, but to the entire Asia-Pacific region. However, the reverse is also true: should China not be admitted, there is a risk not only of economic back-pedaling and a slowing of the reform process, but also that the economic chill would affect Hong Kong and China's neighbors in the region. I suggest to you that the world community cannot afford several more years during which China's economic reform progress is slowed down. Clearly, any hope for the political and legal reform process would also recede.

Second, the participation of China in the WTO would not only have economic and political benefits, but would also serve to bolster those in China who understand that the country must embrace the rule of law, which of course is a key principle underlying active membership in global trade organizations. The rules of free and open trade are based on mutual recognition that all countries must regard each other as equals, with reciprocal rights and obligations. Impartial rules of trade among nations can thus help build acceptance domestically of the importance of equal rights under law. For those of us who have long pressed for vigorous adherence to the rule of law in China, it is encouraging that so many Chinese officials support the nation's entry into groups such as the WTO.

Third, China is not yet a developed country and it would be wrong to impose terms on China on the basis that she is. We have to consider the great risks involved even if China were to accept unduly onerous terms which might cause considerable harm to her economy.

Obviously, many of these changes will be difficult and painful in the short term. But since Deng Xiaoping initiated China's opening to the world in 1979, this has been an irrevocable process which has brought much good to the Chinese people as a whole.

I commend you and the members of your Administration who are pursuing this important objective. Should the opportunity present itself, I want to express my personal willingness to explain the importance of China's WTO accession to wavering members of Congress or those with doubts in other important global roles. Please do not hesitate to let me know if I can be of assistance in any way.

Thank you for your consideration and for your continuing interest in Hong Kong and China.

Best regards, 

Martin Lee


The Democratic Party of Hong Kong

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