How We Will Fight to
By Martin C.M. Lee
- While Taiwan is leaping ahead to join the world community of free societies,
Hong Kong -- long Asia's model of economic success, freedom and the rule
of law -- is lurching backward.
- Last week Beijing's bombs and missiles in the Taiwan Straits failed
to stop the advent of true democracy in Taiwan. But the day after Taiwan's
historic elections, Chinese leaders dropped a political bomb on Hong Kong
-- similarly intended to put an end to our emerging democracy. Beijing
formally declared that our elected legislature would be abolished and replaced
by a fully appointed one to be up and running later this year. On Monday
China said their appointed body would start drafting laws before
the handover, and on Tuesday that to keep their jobs, Hong Kong's respected
independent civil service would have to pledge allegiance to that counterfeit
legislature immediately after the body was set up.
- For those of us who had hoped that Beijing
would ultimately see the wisdom of leaving our elected institutions, civil
service and freedoms intact in Hong Kong, it is the clearest signal et
that Chinaís leaders intend to run Hong Kong in much the same way
they now run China.
- In the 1984 Joint Declaration, under which Britain agreed to hand Hong
Kong over to China in 1997, Beijing solemnly promised the international
community that Hong Kong people would "rule Hong Kong with a high
degree of autonomy" and that under the "one country, two systems"
policy, there would be non-interference in Hong Kong's domestic affairs.
Sunday's 149-1 decision by the Beijing-appointed Preparatory Committee
to ax Hog Kong's legislature has cut off any hope that Beijing would uphold
- This decision represents the last step in China's long march to total
control over all three branches of Hong Kong's government. The highest
official in Hong Kong, the chief executive, will be appointed by Beijing,
as will all top civil servants. Last year, Britain gave China control of
Hong Kong's legal system by adopting Beijing's dangerously wide and uncertain
definition of "Acts of State," thus leaving it to China to decide
which cases can be tried in Hong Kong courts.
- Hong Kong's Legislative Council -- elected only last September with
a majority for pro-democracy legislators -- is the last independent body
in Hong Kong which could resist China's efforts to impose authoritarian
rule on the territory. Though only 20 of 60 legislators are democratically
elected, in the short time since the Hong Kong's elections last September,
the Legislative Council has passed resolutions checking the power of the
colonial government, defied Beijing by condemning China's proposal to gut
Hong Kong's Bill of Rights and staunchly
defended Hong Kong's civil rights and way of life.
- On Monday, a senior Chinese official announced that the Beijing-appointed
legislature will be set up late this year and will have "the power
to revise and scrap laws," even before the handover. Far from passing
laws to protect Hong Kong's economic and political freedom, Beijing's rubber
stamp "provisional" legislature can be relied on to pass laws
to strip Hong Kong people of liberties we so cherish.
- Chinese leaders clearly do not realize that by pulling the plug on
democratic institutions, they are pulling the plug on confidence in Hong
Kong. IN the run-up to the handover, China's impostor legislature will
operate alongside Hong Kong's legitimate, elected Legislative Council,
meaning that Hong Kong will have two legislative bodies operating simultaneously:
one with the mandate of Hong Kong people and the other a puppet legislature
answerable only to Beijing. In short, we are heading swiftly for constitutional
chaos, likely to shatter both economic and political confidence in Hong
- Beijing clearly intends -- and may even succeed -- in doing away with
elected institutions in Hong Kong, but China's leaders will never be able
to erase the experience of democracy through open and fair elections in
Hong Kong. The chief lesson of the 20th century, in Asia and around the
world, is that once citizens have the opportunity to compare elected, accountable
and representative government with authoritarian rule, they invariably
reject authoritarian rule.
- Nor do Hong Kong's elected leaders intend to simply roll over and accept
being ejected from office when China takes over on July 1, 1997. As legislators,
we were elected to a full four-year term of office by Hong Kong peopl,
and we intend to fulfill our duty to them -- in the legislature or out
of it. As the ablition of elected seats constitutes a clear breach of both
the Joint Declaration and China's own constitution for Hong Kong, the Basic Law, we will take our battle to Hong Kong's
courts. We will not be alone in our fight, for whenever Hong Kong peopl
have had the chance tovote they have overwhelmingly chosen pro-democracy
candidates, proof we have already won the battle in the court of public
- In fact, Beijing's insistence on ctonrol of our civil service ad modestly
democratic legislature is a sign not of strength, but of weakness and fear.
Because of the ongoing crisis over the succession to Deng Xiaoping, the
Communist leadership does not feel secure in their own positions. In times
of instability in China, the golden rule is to adopt the hardest possible
line to demonstrate strength to fellow cadres.
- Thus China's end-of-dynasty syndrom manifests itself across the region:
in war games to intimidate Taiwan, in the bullying of Hong Kong, in the
unravelling of international arms control and intellectual property agreements.
Unless and until China's leaders feel secure in their own positions, they
will continue to disregard international treaties such as the Joint Declaration
and be international bullies.
- In the end, perhaps Taiwan's elections and functioning democracy will
have the greatest impact not only on Taiwan, but well beyond the island's
- In Hong Kong, we hope that even if the leaders in China do not see
that there is nothing to fear from democracy in Taiwan and Hong Kong, they
may yet wake up to the great damage that will result from choking off Hong
Kong's freedoms -- both to Hong Kong and to China itself.