From Tianamen to Hong
By Martin C.M. Lee
- Tiananmen worked.
- Five years after the massacre at Tiananmen Square, China's top party
cadres have pronounced it a success, giving their own historical verdict
that, "Without the resolute measures taken then, China would not enjoy
- President Jiang Zemin has further declared, "A bad thing has been
turned into a good thing." China's triumphant return to the world
community on a wave of economic growth and Bejing's decisive victory in
forcing President Clinton to sever the MFN link between human rights and
trade would seem to prove his point.
- The legions of world leaders who have trooped to Beijing to get a piece
of the booming China market further bolster President Jiang's argument
that "History shows that anything conducive to our national stability
- As far as China is concerned, the end very much justifies the means
-- even if the means are a massacre. China's Communist leaders have along
history of rewriting history, but Beijingís latest interpretation
of June 4 has particularly chilling implications for Hong Kong.
- In a little over 1,000 days, Hong Kong will be part of China, and Beijing's
newfound confidence that Tiananmen worked casts a long shadow. As pro-democracy
demonstrators in Tiananmen Square were not "conducive" to China's
national stability, so Hong Kong's free society is now under siege because
Beijing is unable to distinguish between the sort of normal activity that
takes place here every day and counterrevolutionary activity, which it
believes must be crushed.
- Hong Kong has changed dramatically in the five years since China opened
fire on the pro-democracy demonstrators, and especially since our first
democratic elections in 1991. Public rallies and street marches in favor
of democratic reform are a part of daily Hong Kong life. Press conferences,
petitions and campaigns -- dealing with everything from human rights to
housing costs -- are the norm.
- Hong Kong's 6 million citizens cherish our civil liberties and freedoms
principally because the territory is made up of several generations of
refugees from Chinaís political crackdowns, and we are actuely aware
that these freedoms do not exist just a few short miles away across the
- During a century and a half of British colonial rule, the people of
Hong Kong were denied democratic government. But in 1984, Britain signed
the Joint Declaration with China, agreeing to had Hong Kong over on June
30, 1997. For Hong Kong, the most important part of the international treaty
was the proimse that we, the people of Hong Kong, would have a fully elected
legislature and would be allowed to govern ourselves with autonomy in all
matters except defense and foreign affairs.
- But instead of the promised autonomy over our own affairs, the people
of Hong Kong increasingly find the long arm of China reaching into our
daily lives: the bullying of politicians, threats to destroy our common
law system and the announcement that Hong Kong's Bill of Rights will have
o be abolished after 1997. Democratic reform is under attack, and as China's
economic might and clout grow, so does its interest in absolute control
over Hong Kong. Hong Kong's business community has been brought to heel
with threats to remove china trade, and companies and individuals supporting
democratic reform have been targeted for retribution.
- Hong Kong is still the freest society in Asia. But as 1997 draws closer,
that is changin rapidly. The threatened loss of press freedom and the refusal
of the British government to set up important institutions such as a Human
Rights Commission mean that Hong Kong is well on its way to becoming a
human rights tragedy.
- Our great concern is that while Britian and China will continue to
pay lip service to the Joint Delcaration's promise of autonoy and "one
country, two systems" -- at least until the takeover ñ in practice,
Beijing wants strict control over Hong Kong well before 1997.
- A desire for control is certainly behind Bejing's harsh opposition
to Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten's modest democratic reforms to broaden
the franchise for Hong Kong's last elections under British rule. Control
is also th reason Chinese authorities recently announced that our legislature
and the two lower tiers of elected bodies will be axed when Beijing takes
over in 1997. These efforts are directed at crippling the powers and autonomy
of Hong Kongís people during the transition period so there will
be total control in Hong Kong after 1997.
- It is clear to the people of Hong Kong that China is laying the groundwork
for a very different Hong Kong after 1997 and that this may well be our
last-ditch effort to build enough democracy into Hong Kong's still undemocratic
colonial system to preserve our rule of law, way of life and Hong Kongís
role as the heart of the Pacific Rim.
- Despite the impressive economic gains in China, our people recognize
that the difference in approach to human rights and democracy -- in combination
with a fundamental misunderstnaing of the values ad practices of a free
society -- will power te greatest threat to Hong Kong in the transition
to Chinese sovereignty.
- Hong Kong has not forgotten Tiananmen Square. As we remember the deaths
of our But we know that so long as China's Communist leadership remains
willing to sacrifice freedom on the altar of "national stability,"
the world may yet commemorate another tragedy: the Hong Kong that once
was, but is no more.