Summary of Recent Remarks by Zeng Qinghong and Others Regarding the Upcoming July 1, 2004 Procession in Hong Kong (22 June 2004)

Zeng Qinghong, Vice-President of the People's Republic of China and the official in charge of Hong Kong affairs, responded to questions by reporters yesterday regarding the July 1 procession planned for Hong Kong by the Civil Human Rights Front, a coalition of non-governmental organizations.

Mr. Zeng stated that Hong Kong people are free to express their views in numerous ways; however, he also emphasized that any way which they choose must be in the interest of stability and prosperity in Hong Kong. Speaking from Tunisia, where he is currently on a four-day official visit, Mr. Zeng said: "They can express their views in many ways. But whatever the methods, they must be for the good of 'One Country, Two Systems' and the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong." He said that the Chinese government has always encouraged Hong Kong's economic development, but he reemphasized that the Hong Kong people themselves must prize unity. "We must be united. We must strive forward and work hard. Under no circumstance should Hong Kong people stay divided and polarized." Mr. Zeng's remarks regarding the approaching July 1 procession are particularly significant because they mark the first time that a Chinese official of such high rank has commented on the event.

Other important Chinese officials have also made observations regarding the upcoming July 1 procession. Peng Qinghua, a deputy director of the Liason Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong, emphasized the need for dialogue between the two sides to take place in a genuine spirit of understanding. "We can sit down and discuss any constructive suggestion rather than confront each other. There will hardly be any in-depth communication if the situation is in a confrontational mode." Asked whether the July 1 procession is a form of confrontation, Peng answered that it depends on the organizers' intentions: "I think people can judge whether the purpose of the procession is to facilitate communication or something else." However, he stated that he did not agree with the slogan "return power to the people" that participants in the procession plan to use on July 1.

Wang Rudeng, Assistant Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong, said that July 1, Hong Kong SAR Day, was a time for celebration rather than demonstration, adding that protests would not aid communication between democrats and the Chinese government. "I think there should be less confrontation and resistance," he said. "Do they want China's top legislative panel to rescind its decision on 2007 and 2008 elections? This is really trying to be combative and standoffish." and that protests would not aid communication between democrats and the Chinese government.

Tsang Hin-chi, a member of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, commented on Monday in Beijing that Hong Kong people planning to take part in the July 1 procession should march to honor the seventh anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the mainland. He said: "With regard to the procession on July 1, I hope everybody will march to celebrate Hong Kong's return to China for the seventh year." He emphasized that the Standing Committee has already made its decision on electoral arrangements in Hong Kong in 2007/08, and he suggested that it would therefore be inappropriate for participants in the July 1 procession to shout slogans demanding universal suffrage in 2007/08. He said: "The decision is legally bound. As Hong Kong is subject to the rule of law, the society should respect the rule of law."

Several prominent figures in Hong Kong have also commented on the upcoming July 1 procession. Christine Loh, a veteran rights campaigner, recently concurred with the notion of framing the event as a celebration, suggesting: "Pitched as a celebration, perhaps even more people will show up. With tens of thousands of people attending, Hong Kong's message will not be missed. We can love our country and call for democracy at the same time with smiles, not anger." Donald Tsang, the Chief Secretary, replied to a question on Monday regarding the event by saying that the Hong Kong people value their relationship with the mainland government and suggested: "I trust they will deal with the issue rationally." Ma Lik, the chairman of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong, also agreed that Hong Kong's current focus should be on stability and harmony. After meeting recently with the Chief Executive with several of his party members, he said: "We've noted that the opposition has asked for reconciliation and Tung Chee-hwa is willing to render his efforts in creating social harmony."

Speaking on behalf of the Civil Human Rights Front, the organizer of the July 1 procession, spokeswoman Jackie Hung Ling-yu said that Mr. Zeng's comments would not prompt any changes to the group's plans for the march. She expressed the belief that the procession illustrates the unity which Mr. Zeng urged: "The march is an expression of unity among the people of Hong Kong. We believe everybody, and the protest participants in particular, want a better future for Hong Kong."

This summary has been compiled from articles in the China Daily, the Hong Kong Standard, and the South China Morning Post.