Martin Lee accused of inviting interference

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 October, 2007, 12:00am

Beijing and allies rebuke veteran Democrat

Leading Beijing-friendly politicians yesterday rounded on Democratic Party founding chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming, for 'inviting foreign interference' in China's internal affairs.

Mr Lee had appealed to the US government to use the Olympics to press for human rights improvements on the mainland.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said that any such move was 'unreasonable' and would not bear fruit.

Tsang Yok-sing of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said in a Legco debate on the policy address that an article written by Mr Lee and published in The Wall Street Journal on October 17 during his US trip was inappropriate.

'He asked the US president and other world leaders to force China into political reform through direct engagement,' Mr Tsang said.

'State leaders have raised this issue many times and what Mr Lee said clearly proved that this concern about external forces interfering in Hong Kong affairs was real.'

It is not the first time the veteran legislator had been accused of 'selling out' national interests.

But the Democratic Party dismissed the attack as a mere election tactic. Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan accused the DAB of 'using the issue as an election tactic' to smear pan-democrats.

Mr Lee yesterday denied 'badmouthing Hong Kong' in his US trip. He said he was merely trying to urge western figures who wanted to boycott the Beijing Olympics next year to reconsider using more positive methods to press for change on the mainland.

'The human rights condition in China is not good, but the Olympics should not be boycotted,'' Mr Lee said.

'What's wrong with it if foreigners support democracy and improvement of human rights in China?'

President Hu Jintao warned in his speech to the Communist Party's 17th National Congress on October 15 that Beijing would not tolerate interference by 'external forces' in Hong Kong and Macau affairs.

In his article, Mr Lee said US President George W. Bush should visit the Beijing Olympics as more than merely a sports fan. 'He should use the next 10 months to press for a significant improvement of basic human rights in my country, including press, assembly and religious freedoms,' Mr Lee wrote.

Saying Beijing had been backsliding on promises to improve human rights and democracy, he wrote: 'That is no reason to give up on the prospects for reform in China. But it is reason to step up direct engagement on these pressing issues.'

Some Hong Kong politicians were quick to link Mr Hu's warning to the constitutional development debate.

After Mr Tsang's attack, other government allies joined in criticism of Mr Lee.

DAB chairman Tam Yiu-chung said he was 'very angry', while Liberal Party vice-chairwoman Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee said Mr Lee's proposal would make Beijing more wary of universal suffrage in Hong Kong.

More than 100 people gathered to condemn Mr Lee outside the Legco building in Central yesterday. Some of the protesters shouted that he was a traitor.