Sat, Jul 17, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Tung can do nothing for democracy

By Emily Lau 劉慧卿

On July 7, at least 20 legislative councilors from Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement met Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華) to urge him to support the introduction of direct elections in 2007 and 2008. It was clear he should have asked the Chinese government to reconsider the decision made in April to rule out direct elections for chief executive in 2007 and all members of the Legislative Council (LegCo) in 2008.

As expected, we were rebuffed. Three days later, Tung met members of The Frontier, a pro-democracy organization, for the first time. We made a similar request and got the same negative response. We were told having direct elections in 2007 and 2008 would not be in the territory's interest nor in China's long-term interest.

Refusing to give up, I pressed Tung again when he attended a LegCo question-and-answer session last Tuesday. I said I failed to understand why a government elected by universal and equal suffrage in the special administrative region (SAR) could be detrimental to the country's national security, social stability and prosperity. I again asked him to back the people's demand for direct elections in 2007 and 2008.

Tung said Hong Kong is part of China and we must not only look at things from the SAR's point of view. He said LegCo members should understand the international environment and Beijing's determination to defend the country's territorial integrity. This is the clearest hint about the link between a democratic Hong Kong and the question of secession. Such misguided views have been expressed by Beijing before and Tung is merely toeing that line.

These insensitive remarks show that Tung has little time for the wishes of the people. On July 1, half a million people braved intense heat and humidity to march for hours demanding direct elections in 2007 and 2008. The peaceful and dignified demonstration exploded the myth that Hong Kong people do not care about politics and democracy and that they are very pragmatic, meaning if a decision has been taken, particularly by the central government, they will not press the demands anymore.

Many people were stunned by the overwhelming turnout because the march had the single objective of fighting for direct elections, which Beijing has categorically rejected. Tung not only has a duty to reflect the people's concerns to the central government, but should persuade the leaders in Beijing to heed the Hong Kong people's wishes and aspirations.

To our dismay, Tung said he has checked with the central government and was told he has no power to reopen the issue, so he cannot make further representation to the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC).

This incident reinforces the widely held impression that he merely does what he is told by Beijing.

Tung's meetings with the pro-democracy camp are part of the government's response to the tense political atmosphere. At the beginning of the year, the pro-Beijing camp launched a savage attack on pro-democracy legislators for being unpatriotic. The community became bitterly divided.

In April, the NPCSC reinterpreted the Basic Law and ruled out democratic elections in the SAR for 2007 and 2008. Such high-handedness caused an uproar in the community and the atmosphere became even more explosive. Many of these machinations were related to Beijing's twin worries -- a big turnout for the march on July 1 and a pro-democracy majority in LegCo after the Sept. 12 election.

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