Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 5, 2004

QUESTION: Another country or issue. Do you have a readout of the meeting this morning between Secretary Powell and Mr. Martin Lee of Hong Kong?

MR. ERELI: They had a good meeting. They discussed, obviously, the situation in Hong Kong. Secretary Powell voiced our continuing support for the democratic process in Hong Kong.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up on that. When he left the building, Mr. Lee said that the Secretary -- I'm quoting him -- "was obviously concerned by the situation with regard to democracy in Hong Kong."

MR. ERELI: The way I would characterize it is, you know, obviously, we expressed the view that, you know, democracy in Hong Kong is important to us and we support the democratic process in Hong Kong, and that we will continue to voice support for that process.

At the same time, you know, we are committed to the principles of the Hong Kong Policy Act and we support the greatest possible degree of autonomy in Hong Kong under the one country/two systems formula.

QUESTION: But are you concerned about anything the Chinese are doing?

MR. ERELI: I think what we voice support for is the democratic process. And we have made it clear to all the parties that such a process is in the interests of both China and the people of Hong Kong.

QUESTION: All the sentiments that he expressed, is it fair to say that Secretary Powell expressed all that in the meeting with Mr. Lee?

MR. ERELI: Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: Good, thank you

MR. ERELI: Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. support Martin Lee's agenda to introduce democracy to Hong Kong by 2007, or the U.S. has no certain position on this?

MR. ERELI: We're not endorsing one person's policy or another person's policy. What we are endorsing is a government in Hong Kong that is responsive to the aspirations of the Hong Kong people.

A follow-up?

QUESTION: Yeah. And would the U.S. consider to take concrete steps to help Hong Kong achieve this democratic reform?

MR. ERELI: I don't think that that's really a question that is relevant. In other words, the United States doesn't need to help the people of Hong Kong practice democracy. They have a long experience in that. They've got a dialogue with the Chinese Government and with the Chinese, and so that's a process that's already in place.

QUESTION: Change the subject?

MR. ERELI: The same subject?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. ERELI: Yeah.

QUESTION: I guess what Mr. Boucher said yesterday was that you think the basic law in Hong Kong is important to Hong Kong people. And in the basic law, the democratic process is in there, one of the article, I think. And so I guess you are -- I just want to get it clear -- so you support -- you think the basic law is important to Hong Kong so that -- what does that mean? I mean, is there any linkage with this and the democratic process in Hong Kong?

MR. ERELI: Well, I mean, there's linkage to the extent that -- yeah, there is linkage. The basic law provides for a process of democratization that includes full consultations between the people and the government and that's something we support.

Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And just now you said the Hong Kong people have a good dialogue or something, communication with the Chinese authority, which is not quite what I heard from Martin Lee in yesterday's Foreign Relations Committee's hearing.

He said that he was not allowed to go back to mainland China, and actually, the people in Beijing said that he was daydreaming if he wants to go back. So I just want to get it clear what information you got.

MR. ERELI: You know, I think that the point I was making was that -- the original question was, you know, what is the United States going to do to help the democratic process in Hong Kong?

And my point was, we will continue to voice our support for that process, but there is a legal framework and a process underway in Hong Kong under the one country/two systems formula, and that process is working its way out.

QUESTION: Well, I don't think the question is what the U.S. is going to do to support Hong Kong in their move for democracy, but what else is the U.S. going to do to ensure that China respects democracy in Hong Kong?

MR. ERELI: We will continue to work with all the parties. And -- well, I guess I don't accept the premise necessarily of the question.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, as you said, Hong Kong -- the people of Hong Kong are interested in democracy so -- sorry -- it doesn't sound like, you know, there's anything you need to do to them to fight for democracy.

MR. ERELI: Right. And --

QUESTION: But, I mean, the root of the problem is whether China is going to respect democracy in Hong Kong, isn't it?

MR. ERELI: And I don't -- well, I guess -- China and the people of Hong Kong have a dialogue and have a legal framework for moving forward on this, and we support that dialogue and that legal framework. And that is the process that is working its way out, working its way through, and that's where we are.

QUESTION: I'm really sorry, but I'm still confused here. I think there is, as I said before, that what I heard from Martin Lee was that he was not allowed to go back to mainland China and so are a few other activists, democracy activists. And so you support the dialogue? It doesn't mean this dialogue has already been in place, or what?

MR. ERELI: There are communications, there are discussions, between the people of Hong Kong and China.

QUESTION: You know it doesn't --

MR. ERELI: And -- excuse me -- and those discussions are going to continue, and that is a channel of communication. That is a dialogue. And, you know, who was talking to who, when, under what conditions, that's not something necessarily I'm going to get into details on.

But there is a legal framework. There is a process underway and it's important that that framework and that process be respected.

For complete transcript, please see enclosed.