Democratic Party backs Olympics amid row

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 October, 2007, 12:00am

The Democratic Party pledged its high-profile support for the Beijing Olympics in patriotic words yesterday, amid a political wrangle over remarks by its founding chairman, Martin Lee Chu-ming.

The party issued a statement in four local Chinese newspapers to clarify its stance on the Games. It reiterated that the party had long supported China as the host and that it opposed boycotting the Games on human rights grounds as some foreign groups had suggested.

'From the beginning, the Democratic Party has been genuinely supporting our country in hosting the 2008 Olympic Games, and wishes it to be a success,' the declaration's opening sentence said.

In five brief paragraphs, the words 'our country' were used six times.

The party said its members, 'as Chinese nationals', hoped to see the nation's achievements in sport as well as in democracy and human rights.

It also defended Mr Lee's appeal for the US to take the Games as an opportunity to press for democracy and human rights improvements in China.

The party said it hoped the global community would maintain dialogue with Beijing on human rights issues while backing the Olympics.

The advertisement appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal, Hong Kong Economic Times, Ming Pao and Apple Daily.

Mr Lee's remarks, in an article published in The Wall Street Journal on October 17, have sparked verbal attacks from Beijing loyalists, who accused him of inviting foreign intervention in national affairs.

He continued to rebut the criticism yesterday. Speaking on an RTHK programme, Mr Lee said there had been well-organised moves aimed at suppressing him.

He said the incident might affect his party's campaign for the upcoming district council elections, but rejected comments that it was unwise for him to make such remarks.

'Should all pan-democrats shut up whenever there is an election?' he asked. He refused to apologise or retract his remarks, saying he would continue with overseas visits to present Hong Kong's situation to the world until democracy was achieved.

Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong chairman Tam Yiu-chung, who has requested Mr Lee's apology, said the latter's defence was unconvincing.

Mr Tam said the DAB's criticism of Mr Lee was totally unrelated to the election and urged the Democrat not to 'divert public attention'.

Szeto Wah, chairman of the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China and also a veteran Democrat, dismissed the calls for an apology.

Mr Lee 'has the right to demand the mainland authority fulfil its promise made six years ago to improve the rights situation. His stance [in the article] is normal and proper,' Mr Szeto said.