Tung welcomes democrats' olive branch, but adds that concrete actions are needed
Tung's comments came at a tea gathering with the media on 10 June, a day after the democratic camp agreed to adopt a more conciliatory approach towards Beijing. Tung said he was delighted that the democratic camp is willing to take a more moderate line, but added that concrete steps are needed to break the ice.
On 9 June, Pro-democracy unionist Lau Chin-shek called on the democrats to adopt a more conciliatory approach in exchange for better communication with the central government. Mr Lau called for reconciliation between the two sides and also suggested the democrats should abandon their provocative slogans such as "return power to the people". Mr Lee Chu-ming, former chairperson of the Democratic Party, said he would move a Legislative Council motion calling for Hong Kong people to co-operate with Beijing in building 'one country, two systems.'
"What Mr Lau proposed is a good thing", Mr Tung responded on June 10. "I have been telling [democrats] Martin Lee and Szeto Wah that for many years. But they need to come up with some concrete actions." Pressed to elaborate, Tung added, "They know it too well. There are some problems only they can resolve."
Tung pledged that he would meet the democrats and help facilitate their communication with Beijing, but they must first demonstrate their sincerity. "If I think there is a role for me to play, I will do something, but they must take steps to resolve the problems," he said. However, when asked if this entailed severing links with the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, dropping calls for a reassessment of the June 4 Tiananmen Square tragedy and abandoning demands for an end to one-party rule, Tung refused to comment. He did however state that those fighting for greater democracy should ask themselves if their aims could endanger national security. This appears to be directed against the democratic camp's opposition to Article 23 legislation, and the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, which wants an end to one-party rule. However, Tung refused to comment on whether the alliance should be dissolved.
Tung said that Hong Kong must respect the mainland's feelings and concerns and consider how Hong Kong's political development will affect China's interests and security. "Hong Kong people should ask themselves if they have taken the mainland's interests into consideration and whether they try to understand the motherland... We are part of China. Only by protecting the country's interests can Hong Kong's interests be maintained," he said. He commented that the democrats should consider Beijing's concerns: "We can't take a 'do-as-I-please' attitude and ignore other people's thinking. It's just like considering your partner's feelings before you go ahead with any decisions. We have to put ourselves in our partner's shoes in order to establish mutual trust. We need to safeguard our country's interests before we can safeguard the interests of Hong Kong." He added, "After the handover, have we tried to understand what kind of international situation our country is facing? Have we tried to understand the determination of the central government and all Chinese people to safeguard the country's sovereignty and its territorial integrity? Have we tried to understand whether our democratic development will bring benefits to the mainland or endanger the security of the mainland?" he asked.
Speaking about the recent attacks on his governance, Tung said that no matter how many people will take to the streets on July 1, he would strive to improve his governance and listen to the public. "In fact, I think our governance has improved and there is a great deal of improvement shown in the past year," he said. On the subject of the LegCo elections in September, his message was similar. "Whatever the result, the most important thing is to develop a good relationship between the executive branch and the LegCo. I will strengthen my work in this regard." Moreover, he has agreed to meet leaders of a group of more than 200 scholars who last week signed a public declaration calling for the protection of Hong Kong's core values. Their declaration of 7 June emphasised that they were greatly disturbed about the erosion of values, such as democracy, freedom and justice in Hong Kong.
Tung's swift announcement that he will indeed meet with the group follows a strong statement issued by the government on 6 June denying an "erosion" of core values, and a similar statement in LegCo on Wednesday 9 June from Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Stephen Lam.
Beijing's initial response to the democrats' olive branch was sceptical. On his tour of North-east China with a group of Hong Kong tycoons, Vice-Minister of Commerce An Min reiterated Tung's comment that the democrats needed to produce concrete actions. "Lee Chu-ming is full of hatred of the motherland. Co-operation? There is no such possibility," said Mr An, who has previously called Mr Lee a clown. "It would be a blessing if he was willing to co-operate with the central government."
The Democratic Party, in response to these remarks from the Chief Executive and from mainland officials, has stated that it is not prepared to give up its core principles. "We can be milder when we speak, but the party cannot drop matters of principle, for example, our stance on June 4," chairman Yeung Sum said. "How are we going to face our conscience and the people of Hong Kong if we do that?" Mr Szeto, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, said the group would never stop demanding an end to one-party rule or the vindication of the June 4 protesters, nor would it disband in exchange for talks between democrats and Beijing.