South China Morning Post, July 1, 1995

The sell-out that has to stop


By Martin Lee

With exactly two years until the transfer of sovereignty, things look bleaker for Hong Kong ¡V and for China ¡V than they have at any time since 1989.

The main reason I entered politics and have fought for democracy for over a decade was to preserve Hong Kong¡¦s way of life and especially the rule of law and our independent judiciary. My original vision was that by keeping our legal system intact, we could spread Hong Kong¡¦s rule of law to China and point the only way for the future: one that would lead to peaceful and lawful change in China for from the rule of man to the rule of law, and legitimacy for China to take its rightful place as a member of the world community.

I have always devoutly hoped that it would not be China¡¦s system of corruption, tyranny of the state over the individual and lawlessness which takes over Hong Kong, but that we would instead extend to China the best things from our system: free markets, respect for individual aspirations and human rights, and the rule of law.

Even in early 1980s, when I first begun to talk to the leaders in China about Hong Kong, a number of them recognised that China¡¦s best option was to stamp out corruption and introduce a real rule of law, not of men or of communist party cadres. For the people who have China¡¦s long-term best interests at heart, this must still be the best hope for the future. Now it seems the hope is lost ¡V not by Hong Kong people, who know only too well the value of our rule of law and way of life ¡V but by the British Government and Governor Christopher Patten, who have now compromised irretrievably what would have been their greatest legacy to Hong Kong.

China was not supposed to take over in 1995 ¡V or even 1997. Hong Kong people were to be masters of our own house, and in the now empty phrase of the Joint Declaration, Hong Kong people were to rule Hong Kong, ¡§ with a high degree of autonomy¡¨.

In light of recent bad Sino-British deal on the Court of Final Appeal (CFA), the question of whether Governor Patten should ¡§govern or administer¡¨ now seems so irrelevant as to be virtually meaningless. As an elected leader of Hong Kong people, I believe that many Hong Kong citizens now fear the last two years of British rule as China calling all the shots and Governor Patten carrying out these decisions ¡V however adverse for Hong Kong. Instead of governing Hong Kong, the Governor has apparently chosen instead simply to ¡§administer¡¨ the decisions of Beijing and the Preliminary Working Committee (PWC). This course of action ties Hong Kong people¡¦s hands as everything is negotiated secretly in Britain and China¡¦s interests.

The CFA deal is a leading case in point. China got everything it wanted on the courts: not establishing the CFA before 1997, so that China could control the process, limiting the discretion and independence of the CFA in inviting overseas judges, and restricting the jurisdiction through acts of state so that there could be no challenges by Hong Kong people to Beijing¡¦s decisions. Despite the British Government¡¦s claims, the only ¡§certainty¡¨ provided by the Sino-British CFA agreement is the certainly that the rule of law is finished in Hong Kong.

Governor Patten has even agreed to work with the ¡§team designate¡¨ ¡V which means, in short, Beijing designates the team ¡V and he is now obligated to co-operate with whomever China names. Indeed, there were revelations this week in Legco that the team designate will include the ¡§provisional legislature designate¡¨ as well. This legitimises a body previously condemned by Britain and around the world as violating the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. It destroys the role of the properly elected Legislative Council and makes a mockery of the efforts Governor Patten and Britain put into his electoral reform package.

As bad as the CFA deal is, things will get even worse if the Governor continues to try to sell Beijing¡¦s demands to the Hong Kong people, ¡§in the interests of a smooth transition¡¨ and in the interests of British business, rather than govern in partnership with elected leaders in the best interests of Hong Kong.

PWC member and Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB) chairman, Tsang Yok-sing, last week put forward a proposal for Governor Patten and Britain ¡§to follow the process used for the CFA, which saw Britain helping Beijing pave the way for the court the be set up after 1997,¡¨ on China¡¦s terms. Mr. Tsang has in mind re-registering the voters, and, with Britain¡¦s collaboration, organising fresh elections before 1997, so that China would be pleased enough with the result that an appointed legislature would not be necessary.

What does Beijing really have to fear from Hong Kong voters? What is after all really so destabilising about Hong Kong people having a choice about who represents them in the Legislative Council?

Of course, Mr. Tsang¡¦s party and other Beijing-backed candidates would be the major beneficiary of such an arrangement to gut our electoral system ¡V and it does betray a certain lack of confidence in the DAB¡¦s ability to get their candidates elected under even the partially democratic elections we will have this September. But Mr. Tsang is not totally out in left field, as his proposal logically follows from the CFA deal to reorganise all Hong Kong¡¦s institutions so that they mirror China¡¦s system. But is making Hong Kong look as much like China really the best way forward for either Hong Kong or China? I challenge anyone to say with a straight face that this is ¡§one county, two systems.¡¨

In a June 30 interview with The Times of London, Governor Patten called Mr. Tsang¡¦s outrageous and anti-democratic proposal to hold elections agreed with China in 1997 ¡§a fascinating hypothesis¡¨. Hong Kong people will understand what this means: now that the Governor has sold our the rule of law, he is even prepared to sell out the Legco created under his own electoral reform system.

Let me spell this out ¡V instead of China scrapping the Legislative Council elected this September 17, Governor Patten is contemplating sending the elected legislators packing and replacing his modestly democratic arrangements with ¡§elections¡¨ that are agreeable to China. How ironic that Hong Kong unelected Governor and the unelected chairman of a pro-Beijing political party should now find common ground in getting rid of the legitimately elected representatives of Hong Kong people.

This disgraceful failure to protect Hong Kong¡¦s elected institutions and rule of law is why the Democratic Party is moving a motion of no confidence in Governor Chris Patten on July 12. He has failed in the one major test he set himself three long years ago of instituting open, fair and accountable government in Hong Kong before the transfer of sovereignty. Worst of all, he has made it a thousand times more difficult for the people who will stay here after he returns to the UK forever to fight to preserve our way of life. This September¡¦s elections ¡V possibly the last fair and open elections ever ¡V will now in effect be a referendum on the course of for Hong Kong over the next two years. Democrats will run in an unambiguous platform of fighting for our future and telling Britain and China to keep their hands off Hong Kong.

We will pledge to provide real ¡V not cosmetic ¡V constitutional, legal and human rights reform in Hong Kong, and to take legislative action to eliminate the worst vestiges of colonialism, such as the numerous draconian colonial laws. We will also be pressing for the urgent amendment of the most threatening provisions of the Basic Law.

We will continue to fight for a real Court of Final Appeal and the preservation of the rule of law in Hong Kong. Above all, the Democratic Party and I intend to see to it that Governor Patten and the British Government are judged in the court of public opinion ¡V in Hong Kong. China, and around the world ¡V for their failure to defend what was of the greatest significance to Hong Kong and China¡¦s future.

In reality, there is nothing the last Governor of Hong Kong can do to make amends for what he has done, but much more real damage is possible if the Governor fails further to heed the aspirations of Hong Kong people to run our own affairs and to do what we were elected to do.

That is the test now: will Governor Patten continue to do Beijing¡¦s bidding and block Hong Kong¡¦s people¡¦s objectives and initiatives in the last 700 days before Jun 30, 1997, or will he get out of the way and let Hong Kong people ¡V and their legitimately elected representatives ¡V try to pick up the pieces and salvage what we can of Hong Kong¡¦s future?

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