A savage attack on Hong Kong's core values

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 November, 2007, 12:00am

The savage onslaught by the pro-Beijing camp on Martin Lee Chu-ming - for his article urging US President George W. Bush to use next year's Olympics to press Beijing for human rights improvements - was disconcerting and alarming.

What Mr Lee said obviously touched a raw nerve. The whole episode shows that some people want to put limits on Hongkongers' freedom of expression. It appears that the pro-communist camp has become increasingly intolerant of criticism of the central government, particularly on the subjects of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Like the leaders in Beijing, the pro-communist camp is highly sensitive to criticism by the international community.

For many years, many Hong Kong people - including legislators and members of non-governmental organisations - have travelled to the UN, the European Parliament and to other countries to discuss political and economic matters with foreign officials, lawmakers and jurists.

During these meetings, topics discussed include democratic reform, human rights protection and the prohibition of pro-democracy legislators and activists from travelling to the mainland. Inevitably, we asked these foreign friends to raise the issues with officials in Beijing.

This is something Hong Kong people have been doing for decades. I don't see why it should stop. Neither do I think it is inappropriate for Hongkongers to demonstrate against the Myanmese junta for brutally suppressing the monks and supporters of the pro-democracy movement. Mr Lee's critics should learn that human rights are universal values which transcend national boundaries. Hong Kong people are free to express their views. And that includes urging foreign governments and organisations to take action against human rights abuses, and to promote democracy and the rule of law. These rights are enshrined in the Basic Law and the international human rights covenants which have been extended to Hong Kong.

The attacks on Mr Lee reveal a disturbing rise in the level of intolerance. There seems to be an attempt to put limits on what Hong Kong people can say. Anyone who speaks out of turn is branded 'unpatriotic', 'treacherous' and 'a running dog'. Such an attack on our core values bodes ill for civil liberties under 'one country, two systems' and must be fiercely resisted.

Looking at what happened to Mr Lee, I have a sense of deja vu. Not so long ago, I suffered attacks for over a year for having the temerity to say that, on the future of Taiwan, I respect the wishes of the Taiwanese people. To the pro-communist camp, the only acceptable response was: 'I oppose Taiwan independence.' I refused to say that, and was severely criticised. Someone threw faeces at my Sha Tin ward office; there was an arson attack on my Tai Po ward office; and my home was burgled several times.

During all these incidents, the lesson I learned is that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Every time there is an attack on our core values, we must redouble our efforts.

Emily Lau Wai-hing is a legislative councillor for The Frontier