Giving up pro-democracy slogans would mean no genuine exchange with Beijing The pro-democracy camp yesterday said it was willing to communicate with Beijing, but warned against setting any preconditions in exchange for holding talks. The response came after both Hong Kong and central government officials reacted positively to the overtures made on Wednesday. But they criticised Yang Wenchang, commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong, for setting preconditions, saying that slogans used by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China were unacceptable to both the central government and the mainland people. Szeto Wah, chairman of the alliance, said the group should be free to chant any slogan it wanted as members enjoyed freedom of expression. 'If you are only allowed to eat, but not to speak, this is not human rights, it is animal rights,' Mr Szeto said. 'It's because animals have to eat, but they don't need to say anything.' He said it would not be a genuine communication if the alliance had to give up the slogans 'End one-party dictatorship' and 'Vindication of June 4'. 'Only when the alliance can continue chanting these slogans, and also communicate with Beijing, would it be genuine communication. We can't accept any preconditions for communication,' Mr Szeto said. Democratic Party chief Yeung Sum said it was the pro-democracy camp's consensus that communication with the central government was necessary. But Dr Yeung stressed: 'We would not give up our basic principles because of political expediency.' Prominent barrister Ronny Tong Ka-wah, of the Article 45 Concern Group, said he would be happy to see an improvement in communication between Beijing and the pro-democracy camp, but added there should be no preconditions. While some core members in the pro-democracy camp have stood firm in using slogans such as 'End one-party dictatorship', some have suggested adopting milder, slogans, such as 'Build a democratic China'. Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, a member of the alliance's standing committee and head of the Hong Kong Democratic Development Network, said the proposed new slogans effectively meant the same as the old ones, but added they would not hit the same raw nerves in Beijing. Maria Tam Wai-chu, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People's Congress, welcomed the pro-democracy camp's willingness to talk with the central government, though she hoped it was not merely an election strategy. 'If we don't link our democratic development with whether the June 4 protests should be vindicated or not, everything would be much smoother,' Ms Tam said. The Legislative Council's banking sector representative David Li Kwok-po said he hoped the central government would accept the pro-democracy camp's overture.