Letter: Peking stifles democracy

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Sir: I commend Robin Cook for his eloquent support of human rights and democracy in Hong Kong. His article ("How to hold China in our hands", 13 May) and his recent visit to Hong Kong demonstrate that Labour is both aware of the concerns of Hong Kong' s 6.5 million people and prepared to show leadership in the remaining days until the transfer of sovereignty from Britain to China.

However, one of the central points in Mr Cook's article needs clarification. He states Governor Chris Patten introduced his modest electoral reforms (under which still only one third of the legislative seats - 20 of 60 - were elected democratically) "without even visiting Peking". It is clear that neither secret negotiations nor visiting the Chinese leaders would have resulted in their approval of democratic reform .

Since well before Chris Patten's 1992 arrival in Hong Kong, Peking's objective has been to stifle democracy in Hong Kong. China's intentions today are equally clear: Peking has sworn to axe Hong Kong's elected legislature, replacing it with a fully appointed rubber stamp body (which Chinese leaders now say will be operating even before the transfer of sovereignty on 30 June 1997). Had Governor Patten allowed Chinese leaders to vet his reforms before he presented them to the people of Hong Kong, he would not only have doomed democracy before the British departure, but also have given China de facto control over all major decisions in Hong Kong before the transfer of sovereignty.

Though China pins the planned abolition of our elected legislature on Governor Patten this is little more than a smokescreen for setting up its own appointed puppet legislature to pass repressive laws in Hong Kong. Otherwise China would be planning to hold elections immediately after assuming sovereignty .

Instead, Peking's appointed, so-called "provisional" legislature will operate for a year or more, with no terms of reference - or real guarantee of genuine elections at any time in the future.



The Democratic Party

Hong Kong