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Former US diplomats warn of Hong Kong ‘erosion’ over crisis in open letter to CY

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 October, 2014, 9:47pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 October, 2014, 9:47pm

Several former US Consuls General to Hong Kong have tonight written an open letter to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

In it they say they want to show their support for dialogue between pro-democracy demonstrators and the government and express their hope that the people of Hong Kong will work out election procedures that “better meet the needs of your great city”.

Here is the full text of the letter:

To the Honorable C.Y. Leung

Hong Kong, China

We are writing to you based on decades of inestimable interest and admiration for Hong Kong. We have loved the city, admired its citizens and promoted its vital role for business, culture and commerce for Asia and for China. Over the years, we’ve seen the buildings get taller and the harbour get smaller, and lived the exciting energy of one of the world’s greatest cities. We have seen the benefits of Hong Kong’s free markets, rule of law, civil discourse and people for China and the region. While we are Americans and write to you in our private capacity, we suggest that our views reflect the sentiments of the millions of traders, bankers, lawyers, sales teams, accountants, creative artists, film producers, bartenders and ordinary foreigners who have made Hong Kong their home at one moment or another in their lives.

We ask you, as the one person in your role as Chief Executive who can do so, to move to the forefront of efforts to settle the current dispute peacefully according to the terms of the Basic Law, the foundation of Hong Kong’s governance and status. The Basic Law embodies the ideas of peaceful evolution, self-administration and one country/two systems of Deng Xiaoping. Article 45 of the Basic Law says: “the ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.”

The proposal currently on the table --that a committee like the ones who have chosen the Chief Executives so far should continue for an undefined period to choose two or three candidates under the guidance of Beijing—clearly fails to advance Hong Kong’s system toward being more broadly representative or democratic, and in tightening the nominating committee rules would seem actually to retreat from those goals.

Our perception is that the Hong Kong people, including the peaceful demonstrators, are looking for a way to take responsibility for their society and their leaders as a Special Administrative Region of China. The demonstrators in Hong Kong’s streets obviously do not understand the government’s reasons for moving so slowly toward its declared goals, nor do they perceive anything in Hong Kong’s recent history necessitating such caution.

Starting the dialogue between the demonstrators and the government is a good opening. We hope that, from this beginning, you will work out a roadmap with the Hong Kong people that shows clear progress toward the goals enunciated in the Basic Law: universal suffrage, a broadly-representative nomination and democratic procedures.

The international community was asked to endorse the agreement between the United Kingdom and China when it was registered with the United Nations. The United States added its endorsement in our Hong Kong Policy Act. Absent a new proposal, we are concerned that the foundations of this distinctive status for Hong Kong will be undercut. Even more importantly, we can see the potential for gradual erosion of the very foundations of Hong Kong’s prosperity as a globally important economic and financial centre.

Mr. Chief Executive, we respect your position as the leader of Hong Kong, responsible for effectively meshing the directions of the government in Beijing with the wishes of the people of Hong Kong, all the while furthering as much as possible the prosperity of Hong Kong and its contribution to China as a whole. We hope you will successfully resolve the current impasse in the city that we all know and love.

Sincerely,

Ambassador Richard L. Williams (US Consul General June 1990 – June 1993)

Ambassador Richard A. Boucher (US Consul General August 1996 – July 1999)

Ambassador Stephen M. Young (US Consul General March 2010 - July last year)