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JULY 10, 2000 VOL. 156 NO. 1

We're All to Blame

Li Xueren/Xinhua.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin shakes hands with Li Ka-shing, a member of a business delegation from Hong Kong, in The Great Hall of the People in Beijing last month.

A Hong Kong Democrat indicts her fellow citizens

I first saw the news in a Hong Kong Chinese newspaper two weeks ago: a delegation of Hong Kong businessmen was in Beijing for an audience with Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji. At the meeting, the tycoons were urged to support Tung Chee-hwa's government. Such meetings are not uncommon, but they are usually held behind closed doors and we are not privy to the discussions. What upsets me is that these luminaries are not ashamed of what they are doing. The way the Beijing government has openly asserted its control—just six weeks before the election of the 800-member committee that will pick the next Chief Executive—is an insult to the people of Hong Kong. And here we were, believing that the "Hong Kong people rule Hong Kong" concept would remain unchanged.

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HONG KONG: Man of the Jeer
Three years after its return to the mainland, the former British colony is showing signs of economic resurgence. But the public isn't happy with the guy at the helm, Tung Chee-hwa
Viewpoint: A legislator says democracy is losing

INDIA: Treasure Hunt
Officials are red-faced as villagers in a remote settlement loot a vast, historically significant discovery of gold and jewels

CAMBODIA: Strike, We're Out!
Asia's long-exploited factory workers are making their voices heard, downing their tools and demanding a better deal



TRAVEL WATCH: Grape Escapes in the Vineyards of Thailand

Democracy in Hong Kong is certainly going downhill. Look at the way our government works. The Legislative Council has been sapped of much of its power; its role is now much more limited than in the colonial era. Tung's administration has been very successful in stifling people's aspirations to participate in politics. It has been trying to defuse people's anger by telling them not to politicize issues, and a large section of the population doesn't. No doubt Hong Kong people have to take some of the blame. Under colonial rule, they were trained to be fatalistic. They may support the idea of a democratic government, but they feel there will never be one. So instead of chasing what they believe to be impossible, they concentrate on something closer to home: their personal interests. They don't see that there is a relationship between their lives and the political system. Businessmen are even more reluctant to air their differences of opinion, lest defiance be rewarded with reprimands and their business interests suffer. Thus, some go to Beijing to kowtow, others toe the Chinese line to ensure their status quo won't be in jeopardy.

As a democratic legislator, I know the challenges. Some people may have given up, but I am not going to. Recently, some legislators decided not to run for this year's election. But I will stay on, push for an accountable and more transparent government. And I want to see new blood coming into the system. Despite the obstacles, I am trying my best to spread the idea of democracy to the population. But one person is not enough. Fighting for democracy is a collective effort: it's the responsibility of each and every citizen in Hong Kong. Whenever there is an opportunity, we should speak out. We should talk to each other and urge each other to be more engaged and to take part in the political process. Some people believe that there is nothing they can do if the political system doesn't open up. But if they don't take part, the system will never be open. There is no short cut, no quick fix. We Hong Kong people have to be assertive. We have to go out there and fight, just as the Taiwanese have done. Democracy does not fall from heaven.

Emily Lau is a Frontier Party legislator in Hong Kong

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