Do not bow to Beijing, say liberals

Fanny Wong

LIBERAL Legislative Councillors yesterday said Hongkong should not retract the political reform package under pressure from Beijing.

The comments followed a report that China's paramount leader, Mr Deng Xiaoping, had issued a stern warning against Governor Mr Chris Patten's blueprint.

The left-wing Ta Kung Pao yesterday led with a report from the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's most widely circulated daily, that Mr Deng had warned that if Mr Patten failed to withdraw his package, he would suffer losses.

The Yomiuri report quoted a Chinese source as saying that Mr Deng had fiercely criticised the Governor at a meeting with local leaders in Shanghai after the Lunar New Year holiday.

The source quoted the patriarch as saying that while China's open door policy was on track and its economy developing smoothly, the biggest problem was still Hongkong.

Mr Deng said Mr Patten's constitutional reforms package was a major problem.

''If Patten doesn't withdraw his proposals, he will suffer losses he doesn't want to,'' he was reported to have said.

Three vice-directors of the local branch of the New China News Agency, Mr Qin Wenjun, Mr Zhang Junsheng and Mr Zheng Guoxiong, yesterday declined to comment on the Yomiuri report, although they said that Mr Deng had always paid close attention to Hongkong problems.

Speaking at a spring festival dinner hosted by the Hongkong Chinese Enterprises Association, Mr Zhang said Mr Deng was concerned about Hongkong affairs because he had masterminded the ''one country, two systems'' policy.

Speaking at the same function, Mr Zheng said the patriarch fully understood the latest developments in Hongkong.

''Mr Deng is very concerned about the on-going row over the proposed constitutional reform in Hongkong.

''He is especially concerned about the maintenance of Hongkong's prosperity and stability and ways to ensure a smooth transition,'' he said.

United Democrats chairman Mr Martin Lee Chu-ming described Mr Deng's remarks as tantamount to intimidation of Hongkong people.

He urged his Legco colleagues not to be threatened and said they should vote according to their consciences and the will of the Hongkong people.

Asked if he believed public support for the political proposals would be affected, fellow United Democrat Mr Yeung Sum said: ''If Hongkong people decide not to support the proposals just because of his [Mr Deng's] words, it will be our tragedy.'' It would be sad to see the opinions of six million people swayed by an old man in China.

Meeting Point legislator Dr Leong Che-hung said Mr Patten's political reform proposals should not be retracted under pressure from Beijing because they were related to Hongkong's democratic development and political future.

Co-operative Resources Centre convenor Mr Allen Lee Peng-fei said the report indicated Mr Deng's keen concern about the Hongkong issue.

Mr Lee urged the Chinese and British governments to resolve the political controversy through consultation as soon as possible.

Legislator from the pro-China Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hongkong, Mr Tam Yiu-chung, urged the Hongkong Government to consider amending the Governor's reform package to make it converge with the Basic Law.

In a separate development, the pro-Beijing magazine, Bauhinia, said the attempt by the British Hongkong administration to force China to accept the Patten package through the legislature would prove to be futile.

The signed commentary in the magazine's February issue challenged Legco's powers to approve any legislation concerning the reform plan.

Leaving the decision on the 1995 electoral arrangements to the legislature was a blatant infringement of China's sovereignty and went far beyond Legco's terms of reference.

''If the Legislative Council under the manipulation of the British Hongkong administration is allowed to approve the constitutional package and has it confirmed by the Chinese side, once such a precedent is set, the British side can then do whatever it wants under the disguise of the Legislative Council,'' the commentary said.

''Hongkong's fortunes will all be drained away, the political system will derail and China's sovereignty will be damaged.''