- Enter The Dragon
- By Martin C.M. Lee
- When China takes over Hong Kong at midnight on June 30, 1997, its first
official act will be to scrap our elected Legislative Council. This month
Beijing announced the creation of a "temporary" legislature to
pass Hong Kong's laws after the changeover. This unelected body, with no
fixed term of office, will undoubtedly rubber-stamp all laws that Communist
- There has been shockingly little international outrage over China's
flouting of the 1984 Sino-British Joint
Declaration, which indicated that Hong Kong would retain its capitalist
economy and that the people would govern themselves in all matters except
defense and foreign affairs.
- The United States, as the standard-bearer of world democracy, and England,
our colonial ruler, should stand up tot he bullies from Beijing. One good
start would be persuading the last Governor of the territory, Christopher
Patten, to use his near-dictatorial powers to enact strong institutions
of democracy and human rights protection.
- Since the Tiananmen massacre in 1989, it has become apparent that China
has plans very different from the ones Deng Xiaoping and Margaret Thatcher
signed 10 years ago. Each day brings a chilling new sign of what the future
may hold: a muzzled press, a corrupted legal system, a loss of basic liberties
- Beijing is also undermining our economic affairs. This month it canceled
the construction of a much-needed container terminal because one of the
contractors was Jardines Matheson Holdings, a British company that hadn't
toed Beijing's anti-democratic line. China has also used any pretext to
insert itself into the planning of our new $16.5 billion airport.
- As Mr. Deng's health deteriorates, the uncertainty over who will replace
him as the paramount leader has paralyzed decision-making in China. None
of the Chinese elite can afford to look soft when dealing with Western
leaders or human rights issues. In this power vacuum, Hong Kong provides
the most convenient target for hard-line dogma. Thus dialogue on Hong Kong
has ground to a halt.
- China has done this in part to punish Governor Patten, who defied it
by allowing an increase in the number of directly elected seats on the
Legislative Council and lowering the voting age to 18 from 21. But Beijing's
uncompromising policy notwithstanding, there are many things he must accomplish
before the transfer of sovereignty.
- Press freedom is under siege, with an increasing number of Hong Kong
reporters being arrested in China. This summer a Chinese propaganda official
threatened the owner of a new newspaper here for its critical coverage
of China. The official, Huang Xinhua, declared that Hong Kong journalists
should "be wise" and "act in line with the circumstances."
- Mr. Patten could help by immediately repealing the Draconian colonial
laws authorizing press censorship. These laws are largely unused but are
still on the books, and Chinese leaders are eager to use them to stifle
our media after the transfer.
- Our legal system is also imperiled by China's threats to abolish our
Bill of Rights and common-law system. Mr. Patten must shore up the legal
system by creating the Court of Final Appeal, as described in the Joint
Declaration. This tribunal would be similar to the U.S. Supreme Court;
judges from the U.S. and other countries whose legal systems derive from
Britainís would be invited to sit on the court as required.
- Beijing's demonstrated lack of respect for human rights makes it imperative
that Mr. Patten set up an independent Human Rights Commission, as has been
strongly urged by Britain's House of Commons and numerous human rights
groups. So far he has refused, saying that such a commission is unnecessary.
Easy for him to say, as he will not be in Hong Kong after 1997.
- The people of Hong Kong desperately need these institutions to preserve
our freedoms. If China can be persuaded to accept them, well and good.
If not, Mr. Patten must go ahead and create them, as he is empowered to
do by British colonial law. If Beijing wishes to scrap Hong Kong's free
society and democratic institutions after 1997, it should at least be forced
to do so actively in full view of the international community, and not
through the silent complicity of the colonial government.