Dissident clings to hope as mood swings in land of exile

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 June, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 June, 2002, 12:00am

Dissident Han Dongfang, who has been exiled since 1993 and secured permanent residency last year, concedes his case is testimony to the 'one country, two systems' policy.

But he said he had prepared for the worst should the Government tighten up in future.

Jailed on counter-revolutionary charges after the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, the former rail worker was barred from entering China after seeking medical treatment abroad in 1993.

'Everyone told me to leave before the handover. But I chose to stay. Hong Kong is not the Titanic that will sink all of a sudden,' he said. 'I am not saying my case is representative, but the fact that I can stay here demonstrates the 'one country, two systems' policy.'

The 38-year-old labour activist was granted permanent residency and a SAR passport last August. He now works as a commentator at the US-funded Radio Free Asia, which broadcasts news to China and other Asian countries.

'I never felt I have been bugged or anything like that. But for sensitive matters, I won't talk on the phone,' he said.

Mr Han believed he would be jailed if the SAR moved to pass a subversion law dovetailing with that on the mainland.

'Yes, I call for the fall of [President] Jiang Zemin. In China, that's forbidden. If we have the same law here, there is no doubt that I'll be locked up,' he said. Although he remains optimistic, Mr Han said the reinterpretation of the Basic Law by Beijing during the abode saga had rocked his confidence in the SAR.

'I come from a place where we don't have judicial independence. The value of Hong Kong lies in its independent Judiciary. Even the Chinese leaders have been very restrained. But the [SAR] Government invited Beijing to intervene,' he said.

The abode saga and the recent arrests of protesters confirmed his worries that things could worsen after the handover. Police should have more restrained in handling protests, Mr Han said.