25 February 1997

Democratic Party Chairman Martin Lee Calls 9-City European Tour "Very Successful"; Europeans Concerned About the Future of Democratic Institutions and Freedoms

Martin Lee returned this afternoon from a 9-city European trip to discuss the future of Hong Kong. On his visit (at the invitation of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament, and also individual invitations from Norwegian, Swedish and other parliaments in Europe) the democratic leader met and addressed over 300 European parliamentarians. He also spoke to think tanks, overseas Chinese groups, business leaders, the press and top government officials to detail the latest developments in Hong Kong and the prospects for freedom, human rights and democratic institutions after the handover.

In all of the countries he visited, Martin Lee saw both government and opposition leaders, as well as members of all of the major political groups in Europe, including the European People's Party, the Liberal Democrats and Reformers Group, the Socialists and the Radicals. He was received by numerous Cabinet ministers, including the Foreign Ministers from Belgium, Norway and the UK, by the Justice Minister in France, and by Trade Ministers and State Secretaries in several other countries. Martin Lee also addressed the Foreign Affairs Committees of the European Parliament, the Belgian Parliament, the German Parliament, the French National Assembly, the Norwegian Parliament, the Swedish Parliament and the Italian Senate.

"My simple message to Europe was that the world community has an interest and a stake in ensuring Hong Kong stays free.

The officials, parliamentarians and business leaders I saw in Europe all expressed great concern about the latest developments in Hong Kong -- particularly the setting up and operation of the appointed "provisional legislature" in China and the roll-back of the Bill of Rights and legal protections for human rights. Without exception, all of the individuals and groups I saw were well aware of the recent developments in Hong Kong and profoundly concerned about the future of freedoms and the rule of law. In all of the European countries I visited -- and especially at the Council of Europe and the European Parliament -- parliamentarians and officials stated they would support Hong Kong during the transition period and after.

Hong Kong is an international city. And the international community is clearly concerned about the future of democratic institutions and freedoms in Hong Kong. European countries strongly supported the Joint Declaration at China and Britain's request when it was announced in 1984. Now that the Joint Declaration is being breached, these countries are naturally taking an interest in what is happening. And of course many of the European countries also have significant business and economic interests in Hong Kong and China and are concerned that Hong Kong retains our free flow of information, rule of law and level playing field.

As elected representatives, we owe a duty to the Hong Kong people to speak up and to do everything we can defend Hong Kong's freedom and rule of law. This the Democratic Party will continue to do -- both in Hong Kong and abroad.

I look forward to meeting again soon with our future Chief Executive, Mr. C.H. Tung, in order to convey to him the concerns expressed by the European countries I have visited."

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