20 February 1997

Democratic Party Statement on the Death of Deng Xiaoping

The Democratic Party today responded to the death of Deng Xiaoping by expressing the hope that a new era would be inaugurated in China. The party hoped China would continue with its existing "open" economic policy, improve democracy and human rights, reassess the verdict on the 1989 pro-democracy movement in China and live up to its international agreement that freedoms and the rule of law would be guaranteed under the "one country, two systems" policy first articulated by Deng Xiaoping.

During the 18 years that Deng Xiaoping was China's top leader, his greatest achievements were putting an end to the extremism of the cultural revolution, modernising China, and opening China's economy to market forces, which improved the living standard of millions of Chinese people. But because of Deng's failure to institute corresponding political reforms and the rule of law, political improvement has not gone hand in hand with economic improvement.

Thus the 1989 suppression of the democracy movement in Tiananmen Square will be as much a part of Deng's legacy as economic reform. The Democratic Party reiterates its stance that China should reverse the verdict on the 1989 democratic movement. We also believe that China must build up a democratic, fair and just system of government to protect the people's rights and freedoms. We hope that following the death of Deng, China will abandon its hardline policy towards Hong Kong, will listen to Hong Kong people and will heed their aspirations to keep their freedoms, democratic institutions and way of life.

From London, Party Chairman Martin Lee commented on Deng's legacy:

"Deng was the architect of the Joint Declaration and the "one country, two systems" model for the return of Hong Kong's sovereignty to China, which the Democratic Party supports. But that policy is now being eroded and the freedoms it promised threatened. Deng was also responsible for the open economic policy which improved the quality of life of many millions of Chinese citizens. But his resistance to political reform led to one of China's darkest hours, the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Ultimately, Deng Xiaoping's legacy in Hong Kong will depend very much on how the transfer of sovereignty is handled. This is the time for the current Chinese leadership to reassess their hardline policy on Hong Kong and to return to the course Deng charted for Hong Kong in 1984, with "one country, two systems" as a cornerstone, and freedoms guaranteed and protected by law. This is the only way to ensure the handover is a success, with Hong Kong's institutions, liberties and rule of law intact."

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