Advisers speak out against Xi jail term

Linda Choy

CHINA'S jailing of Ming Pao reporter Xi Yang came under attack yesterday from two Hong Kong affairs advisers.

Speaking at a ceremony in Beijing in which she and 48 other advisers were formally named, Chung Kei-wing pleaded for leniency towards Xi, who was jailed for 12 years for ''stealing state secrets''.

Miss Chung, vice-chancellor of Shue Yan College, urged Chinese officials to grant parole of between three and seven years to Xi if he behaved well in prison.

To do so, it would not be necessary for China to change its verdict on Xi, Miss Chung told officials.

Another adviser, Shum Choi-sang, said he told officials the 12-year sentence was too heavy.

Mr Shum said Xi had merely done his duty by Hong Kong people.

''Whether it is right or wrong for him to do that is another issue,'' said Mr Shum, adviser to the Newspaper Society of Hong Kong.

Beijing was also criticised by another affairs adviser, Tsang Shu-ki, who said he was unhappy with the way China had dealt with the removal as an adviser of Meeting Point chairman Anthony Cheung Bing-leung.

While China said it had withdrawn Mr Cheung's invitation because he had insisted on being appointed as a representative of the Democratic Party rather than in his personal capacity, pro-China newspapers had given other reasons, Mr Tsang said.

''Although I can't say the left-wing newspapers represent China, it really gives the impression, there were political reasons behind Mr Cheung's sacking,'' he said.

But another adviser, Chan Man-hung, who is a Meeting Point member, said Mr Cheung deserved his treatment.

''It is the price he should pay''. ''He wanted to be an adviser and he tried to cover up the merger'' of Meeting Point and the United Democrats to form the Democratic Party, he said.

In an open letter to Chinese leaders yesterday, Mr Cheung said Chinese policy towards Hong Kong had been wrong.

He cited China's refusal to introduce direct elections in 1988 and said the Basic Law showed it had failed to incorporate the principle of ''Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong people''.

Mr Cheung also lashed out at the mainland authorities for isolating the democratic forces in Hong Kong while trying to obtain support from the business sector.

''By distancing itself from the democratic forces after the June 4 crackdown and isolating certain democratic figures, [China] has further separated itself from Hong Kong society,'' he said.

He urged that transitional matters be discussed through the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group, whose openness should be increased.

Noting that China had vowed to disband the three tiers of government after the changeover, Mr Cheung said they should be reconstructed in a manner that was open, fair and in accordance with the principle of democracy.

The franchise for the functional constituency elections should be expanded and the method of voting ought to be simple and fair, he said.