Martin Lee in The Wall Street Journal

China's Olympic Opportunity


October 17, 2007; Page A18

When President George W. Bush accepted President Hu Jintao's invitation to attend the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Mr. Bush's press secretary said that he was going to the Games as "a sports fan, not to make any political statement." I too am a great sports fan -- especially of the Soccer World Cup -- but I would encourage President Bush to take a broader vision of the possibilities for the Beijing Games. He should use the next 10 months to press for a significant improvement of basic human rights in my country, including press, assembly and religious freedoms.

This should be possible, since Chinese leaders have promised to make these improvements anyway. In their pledges to the International Olympic Committee while bidding for the Games and since, China's leaders at all levels repeatedly assured the world that they would use the Games to go beyond improving the country's physical infrastructure.

"By applying for the Olympics, we want to promote not just the city's development, but the development of society, including democracy and human rights," one of China's key Olympic figures, Deputy Mayor Liu Jingmin, told the Washington Post in 2001. Then, Mr. Liu said, "If people have a target like the Olympics to strive for, it will help us establish a more just and harmonious society, a more democratic society, and help integrate China into the world."

I couldn't agree more. But instead of the hoped-for reforms, the Chinese government appears to be backsliding on its promises, including in Hong Kong where we have near total political paralysis, not the promised road to full democracy. That is no reason to give up on the prospects for reform in China. But it is reason to step up the direct engagement on these pressing issues.

In accepting the invitation to attend China's Games, President Bush said this would be "a moment where China's leaders can use the opportunity to show confidence by demonstrating a commitment to greater openness and tolerance." Instead of a "moment" of change, China needs structural and long-term reforms: placing the Communist Party under the rule of law, unshackling the media and Internet, allowing religious adherents to freely practice their faiths, ceasing harassment of civil-society groups that work on AIDS and the environment, and addressing modest calls for accountability in the political system. Mr. Bush and other world leaders planning to attend the Olympics should not wait for the opening ceremony, but must start now with sustained efforts to achieve this agenda.

One reason for optimism about the possibilities for progress in China is recent Olympic history. When South Korea bid for the 1988 Games, the country was a military dictatorship. Due in good part to the prospects for embarrassment and international engagement, the Olympics helped kick off an overdue peaceful political transformation in South Korea just six months before the launch of the Seoul Games. Since then, South Korea has endured as one of Asia's most stable and vital democracies. The parallels between South Korea and China are not exact, but the lesson is that the Olympics certainly present an opening to raise these issues in the context of the Chinese government's own promises.

In the U.S. and elsewhere, there are campaigns to boycott the Beijing Games over the Chinese government's trade with and support for regimes in Sudan and Burma. As a Chinese person, I would encourage backers of these efforts to consider the positive effects Olympic exposure could still have in China, including scrutiny by the world's journalists. This is certainly the time for Chinese leaders to step up and constructively use their clout in Asia and Africa. In so doing, Beijing should open a new chapter of responsible foreign policy and convince the world it is not oblivious to these issues.

Chinese people around the world are proud that China will host the Games. China has the world's fastest growing economy, and may indeed put on history's most impressive Olympic Games next August. But how does it profit our nation if it wins gold medals but suffers from the continued absence of democracy, human rights and the rule of law?

It is my hope that the Games could have a catalytic effect on the domestic and foreign policies of the Chinese government, and that the Chinese people will remember the Games long after they are held -- not merely for medals won, but also because they were a turning point for human rights and the rule of law in China. That would be something worth cheering.

Mr. Lee is a democratically elected legislator and the founding chairman of Hong Kong's Democratic Party.

(Ming Pao)  "External Forces Interfering in Hong Kong" is not without basis.  Jasper Tsang Yok-sing.  October 26, 2007.

[in translation]

Legislator Martin Lee Chu-ming had been away from Hong Kong.  He did not go to carry out the duties of a Legislative Councilor.  Instead, he went overseas to express his personal political views.

Let me begin with the Olympics.  In his annual policy address, Hong Kong SAR Chief Executive, Donald Tsang especially mentioned the Olympics which will be held next year in Beijing.  He hopes to use this occasion to deepen the Hong Kong people's understanding of China and to share the sense of pride for all Chinese.  Legislator Martin Lee obviously has a totally different understanding of the meaning of the Beijing Olympics.  In speeches and writings, Martin Lee called for American president Bush and other world leaders to use this opportunity to directly engage (he used the English words "direct engagement") China in order to force China to make political reforms.  He especially called for President Bush and other international leaders not to wait until the opening ceremony next August, but to use the next ten months fully.  He also mentioned Hong Kong and says that he believes that the lack of development in the political system in Hong Kong was the fault of Beijing.

In Legislative Councilor Martin Lee's speech just before, he has deliberately distorted the words of the state leaders in two places.  First, he spoke about Mr. Deng Xiaoping.

I did not have as many opportunities to listen to Mr. Deng Xiaoping speak directly as Martin Lee.  But there is one section that is his own speculation when he said that when Mr. Deng Xiaoping spoke of "one country, two systems" and "fifty years plus fifty years" means that China should follow Hong Kong, which will set the direction for where China should develop.

I have not personally heard Deng Xiaoping speak.  But many of the theories of Deng Xiaoping concerning "one country, two systems" about the policies on Hong Kong have been transcribed into writings.  A frequently cited occasion was when he received a group of Hong Kong business people including Sir Chung Sze-yuen in June 1984.  He explained the concept of "one country, two systems."  Here is part of what he said:

We will insist that the long-term policy towards Hong Kong will not affect socialism in mainland China.


He spoke repeatedly that the main body of China must be based upon socialism.  We can disagree with this assertion.  Legislative Councilor Martin Lee can say that China should not continue with socialism, or that Deng Xiaoping was wrong.  He can say that what Deng Xiaoping said was untrue because this is a false kind of socialism.  Martin Lee can say that the socialism with special Chinese characteristics is actually capitalism.  But when he says that Deng Xiaoping means to say that mainland China must follow Hong Kong, it is obviously not what Deng Xiaoping means.

You can disagree with or criticize what Mr. Deng Xiaoping says.  But when you distort what he said and mislead the Hong Kong citizens, we must correct you.

Martin Lee also said that Chairman Hu Jintao resolutely opposed the interference of external forces in Hong Kong and Macau in his report at the Seventeenth Party Congress.  He said that these external forces are not foreign forces.  This is a distortion.

The central government leaders have spoken more than once about external forces interfering with Hong Kong affairs.  The first time was in July 2003, when Chairman Hu Jintao met Tung Chee-hwa in Beijing.  He spoke clearly about "foreign and external forces."  Subsequently, the "external forces" became a more extensive concept which included the "foreign forces."  Why wouldn't these "external forces" also mean "foreign forces" for Hong Kong?

The state leaders were reacting to precisely the things that Legislative Councilor Martin Lee wants to see happen.

Albert Ho also said that they are not using airplanes and cannons to coerce you.  Today, when some countries with the United States of America being the most outstanding example interfere with the internal affairs of other countries, how often do they have to use airplanes and cannons?  Of course not.  For the past decade or two, the American politicians have advocated the use of "soft power" to interfere with the internal affairs of other countries.  These types of things have happened repeatedly over the past two decades, and the results in various countries are often contrary to the interests of those countries in terms of their development.  The Chinese state leaders have frequently spoke about this problem.

The words and deeds of Legislative Councilor Martin Lee precisely prove that the assertion of "external forces interfering with Hong Kong affairs" has a basis.

(Those Were The Days)  A Complaint On Behalf of Martin Lee.  October 26, 2007.

It was hard to imagine that Martin Lee's essay in The Wall Street Journal asking American president Bush and other western leaders not to forget human rights when they attend the Olympics should raise such a huge storm.

Did Martin Lee really ask the American government to pay attention to freedom of press, speech and religion and the AIDS crisis, as DAB former chairman Jasper Tsang said?  Unfortunately, the website to The Wall Street Journal requires subscription.  I have read the original article and I could not find anything that means "applying pressure" as cited by many Hong Kong media.  Martin Lee used the phrase "direct engagement."  Unless you refuse to use a dictionary, there is no way to translate that into "application of pressure"!

This time, the DAB is maligning Martin Lee.  In his essay, Martin Lee had stated clearly that he opposes any boycott of the Olympics.  Instead, he asked the western countries to take a positive view of the impact of the Olympics on China.  So how could these local Communists use this to criticize Martin Lee?  Could he be wrong to ask foreign countries not to boycott the Olympics in order to punish the Chinese Communists for violating human rights?  Could he be wrong to advocate the use of moderate dialogue to solve the Chinese human rights problem?  Should he have taken the side of the international forces that want to boycott the Olympics?

The Martin Lee that I know may not agree with the Communist dictatorship, but he will insist that he is Chinese.  He may criticize the Chinese Communists for being dictatorial and undemocratic and he may demand a democratic system for China, but he will not support anyone who hurts the overall interests of the Chinese people.  

Years ago, when President Clinton wanted the US Congress to give Permanent Normal Trade Relations status to China and to support the entry of China into the World Trade Organisation, he faced opposition from the anti-China forces no matter what.  So President Clinton asked Martin Lee to come to lobby Congress.  When the US Congress saw that even Martin Lee, who is berated by Beijing frequently, supported the bill, they had no reason left to object and the bill was passed.  Afterwards President Clinton wrote Martin Lee to thank him.  What about China?  Someone did them a favor but they were not grateful; instead, they continued to condemn Martin Lee for selling out the country!  If he had not gone to "sell his country" at the US Congress so that China could get into the WTO, would China be talking about "a great nation rising" today?  There is no worse ingratitude as this!  At the very least, the Chinese government has never uttered a single word to thank Martin Lee for helping them get into the WTO!

A democrat A said that there are many human rights organizations that want the United States to boycott the Olympics and they want Martin Lee to join their ranks.  But he is resolute in opposing any boycott of the Beijing Olympics.  He only hopes that foreign countries can use the Olympics opportunity to ask the Chinese government to improve human right conditions.  Martin Lee opposes an Olympics boycott and he prefers a moderate approach to improve human right conditions in China.  For this, he has been lambasted by the Hong Kong leftists.  What would the foreigners think?  They would know that the Hong Kong leftists lambasted Martin Lee on orders from Beijing.  They would then think that Beijing made promises to improve human rights in China but those promises turned out to be empty.  When Martin Lee asks the foreign countries to use the Olympics opportunity to pay more attention to human rights in China, it was a crime.  When the foreign people and media observed this episode, they must doubt that when the Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee vice-chairman and Beijing city vice-mayor Liu Jingmin said to the Washington Post in 2001: "In order to hold the Olympics, we must not only develop Beijing more, but we must also develop the entire society including democracy and human rights" and "If we all have such a goal, it would held us to build a society that is more fair, harmonious and democratic, and this will help China melt into the international community", those words must be a pack of lies?

But even if those are lies, does Beijing want to be exposed at this moment, so that those people who oppose the Beijing Olympics can create a stir?

Please read Martin Lee's entire article.  There is nothing in it like what the leftist newspapers are saying.  Even democrat B who did not want Martin Lee to go to the United States is supporting him this time: "This is obviously a mischaracterization.  Martin did not say anything like that.  He even told people not to boycott the Olympics.  There is no reason to criticize him!"

Let this incident draw international attention.  Each time a foreigner reporter goes to Beijing, let them ask the senior government officials about this so that they realize that it is their own guard dogs who are causing the trouble instead of the democrats!

P.S. How is it that apart from Apple Daily, even Ming Pao did not translate Martin Lee's original essay?  Were they afraid that their readers would find out that the leftists were taking words out of context! ...

(SCMP)  Martin Lee accused of inviting interference.  Ambrose Leung.  October 26, 2007.

Leading Beijing-friendly politicians yesterday rounded on Democratic Party founding chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming, for "inviting foreign interference" in China's internal affairs.  Mr Lee had appealed to the US government to use the Olympics to press for human rights improvements on the mainland.  Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said that any such move was "unreasonable" and would not bear fruit.

Tsang Yok-sing of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said in a Legco debate on the policy address that an article written by Mr Lee and published in The Wall Street Journal on October 17 during his US trip was inappropriate.  "He asked the US president and other world leaders to force China into political reform through direct engagement," Mr Tsang said.  "State leaders have raised this issue many times and what Mr Lee said clearly proved that this concern about external forces interfering in Hong Kong affairs was real."

It is not the first time the veteran legislator had been accused of "selling out" national interests.  But the Democratic Party dismissed the attack as a mere election tactic. Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan accused the DAB of "using the issue as an election tactic" to smear pan-democrats.

Mr Lee yesterday denied "badmouthing Hong Kong" in his US trip. He said he was merely trying to urge western figures who wanted to boycott the Beijing Olympics next year to reconsider using more positive methods to press for change on the mainland.  "The human rights condition in China is not good, but the Olympics should not be boycotted,'' Mr Lee said.  "What's wrong with it if foreigners support democracy and improvement of human rights in China?"  President Hu Jintao warned in his speech to the Communist Party's 17th National Congress on October 15 that Beijing would not tolerate interference by "external forces" in Hong Kong and Macau affairs.

In his article, Mr Lee said US President George W. Bush should visit the Beijing Olympics as more than merely a sports fan. "He should use the next 10 months to press for a significant improvement of basic human rights in my country, including press, assembly and religious freedoms," Mr Lee wrote.  Saying Beijing had been backsliding on promises to improve human rights and democracy, he wrote: "That is no reason to give up on the prospects for reform in China. But it is reason to step up direct engagement on these pressing issues."  Some Hong Kong politicians were quick to link Mr Hu's warning to the constitutional development debate. 

After Mr Tsang's attack, other government allies joined in criticism of Mr Lee.  DAB chairman Tam Yiu-chung said he was "very angry", while Liberal Party vice-chairwoman Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee said Mr Lee's proposal would make Beijing more wary of universal suffrage in Hong Kong.

More than 100 people gathered to condemn Mr Lee outside the Legco building in Central yesterday. Some of the protesters shouted that he was a traitor.

(The Standard)  Traitor gibe on Lee's US stance.  Diana Lee.  October 26, 2007.

Beijing loyalists launched a tirade against veteran democrat lawmaker Martin Lee Chu-ming yesterday, calling him a "running dog" and a "traitor" for urging the United States and other countries to use next year's Beijing Olympics to force China to improve its human-rights record.

Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said Lee's action was a "clear example of inviting foreign powers to meddle in the affairs of the SAR government."  He also accused Lee of making a tacit call for a boycott of the Olympics by urging foreign governments to undertake "direct engagement" with China in the run-up to the Games.

The founding chairman of the Democratic Party made the call in an article published in the US-based Wall Street Journal on October 17.

Strong denunciation of Lee also came from the pro-business Liberal Party.  "It's sad for Martin Lee to do such a thing. It will have a damaging effect on relations between Hong Kong and the central government as efforts are being made to push for full democracy," said the party's vice chairwoman Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee.  The barrage began as Lee, who has just returned from a two-week tour of the United States, Canada and Europe, spoke on constitutional reform in the Legislative Council.

Lee said he totally agreed with President Hu Jintao who warned against any attempt by "external forces to interfere in Hong Kong and Macau affairs in his opening address to the 17th Chinese Communist Party national congress this month.  "I believe he [Hu] had chosen his words carefully. He did not say 'foreign powers' but 'external powers,"' Lee said, adding that the Central Government Liaison Office had intervened in Hong Kong affairs, including the forthcoming legislative by-election.

DAB founding chairman Jasper Tsang Yok-sing criticized Lee for "distorting what Hu had said."

Legislative Council president Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, who allowed Lee to speak on constitutional reform following the debate over the chief executive's policy address, urged lawmakers to show respect for regular chamber meetings.  "I'm disheartened that some councillors regard other topics as more important than the regular meeting," she said.

Lee said later he wrote the article as there had been campaigns to boycott the Olympics because of Beijing's poor record on human rights.  "I did not tell people to boycott the Beijing Olympics.  "On the contrary, I asked those with such an intention to reconsider their position and use dialogue to press Beijing instead.

About 60 supporters of pro-Beijing groups staged a protest outside the Legco building yesterday and handed Lee a letter denouncing him as a "running dog and traitor" for his remarks. 

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said China does not need any pressure from other countries over the human-rights issue.  He warned that anyone who tries to pressure China with the help of external forces is bound to fail.

(China Daily)  Lee's political stance laid bare.  By Xiao Ping.  October 26, 2007.

The despicable act of former Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee has served as a footnote to President Hu Jintao's recent speech which voiced opposition against foreign interference in Hong Kong and Macao affairs.  Only two days after the president delivered his speech, Lee wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal, urging US President George W. Bush to take the opportunity of the Beijing Olympics to pressurize China for an improved human rights situation. 

It's this far Lee has gone to invite foreign interference in China's internal affairs.  And then, speaking in the Legislative Council yesterday, he labelled the central government liaison office in Hong Kong as the "external force" that is meddling in Hong Kong affairs. Immediately he came under fire from patriotic legislators. 

What he did this time - fawning on foreign powers and making unfounded accusations against the mainland - laid bare his political stance.  Over the years, Lee has made numerous trips abroad, badmouthing his own country to foreign governments and asking them to exert pressure on the Chinese government. As a result, he was taught a lesson in the 2004 debate of "what constitutes a patriot". The conclusion we can draw from all these past events is that we can never expect Lee to change.

Hong Kong's constitutional development is China's internal affair over which the central government holds the ultimate power of decision. Right from the beginning, Lee had felt uncomfortable with Beijing's execution of this constitutional power, and now he has gone as far as blatantly inviting foreign forces to step in. All these have inevitably raised skepticism over the real intention behind his campaigning for universal suffrage.

As a matter of fact, the country's hosting of the Olympic Games is something in which all Chinese people take great pride. It serves as a testimony to the rise of the Chinese nation. And the holding of the equestrian events in Hong Kong next year gives the local community a chance to co-host the great sporting event.  By attempting to politicize the Games, Lee is working against the will of the entire Chinese nation and is doing an outright damage to national interest.  In fact, Lee's remarks have not only infuriated his fellow citizens in Hong Kong, they have also sent a shock wave through the opposition camp.

It is interesting to see whether Anson Chan - the Legislative Council by-election candidate who had joined the race because of Lee's encouragement and had made universal suffrage the centre piece of her election platform - would be placed in an embarrassing situation this time.

(The Wall Street Journal)  China and Martin Lee.  October 29, 2007.

Earlier this month, we were pleased to publish an op-ed by Hong Kong legislator Martin Lee on democracy in China. Little did we know it would be seized by Beijing sympathizers as a chance to undermine freedom of speech in Hong Kong.

The assault, which has the flavor of a Cultural Revolution struggle session, stems from an October 17 op-ed, "China's Olympic Opportunity." In the article, Mr. Lee called on President Bush and other world leaders to "press for a significant improvement of basic human rights. . . including press, assembly and religious freedoms" and to use "direct engagement," rather than listen to calls from some quarters for an Olympic boycott. Mr. Lee was traveling when the op-ed was published.

Upon his return to Hong Kong last week, the political assault started. On Friday, a raft of pro-Beijing newspapers -- including Hong Kong's largest-circulation daily, the Oriental Daily News, as well as the Ming Pao Daily News and Sing Tao Daily -- ran leading stories attacking Mr. Lee.

Hong Kong's Beijing-controlled legislature added its criticism, while the chairman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong called for Mr. Lee to apologize. Several dozen people jeered Mr. Lee as he left the legislature. The Hong Kong government didn't muster a defense of Mr. Lee's right to free speech. Hong Kong's second-highest ranking official, Henry Tang, told reporters Friday that the Olympics shouldn't be "politicized."

This incident is extraordinary, and not only because it's the first time that a Hong Kong democracy advocate has been targeted so ferociously. In this case, the campaign was organized against something Mr. Lee didn't even say. Many of the articles suggested that he had called for an Olympic boycott, though he expressly didn't.

The pro-Beijing camp has many reasons for assailing Mr. Lee. Because he is Hong Kong's most eloquent and famous democracy advocate, his words carry weight in Western capitals, at a time when China is under pressure to improve its human rights record. China may also be trying to send a warning to its own citizens that anyone who links the Olympics with human rights or democracy will be treated harshly. Beijing wants the Olympics to be a showcase for nationalist pride, not domestic debate.

However, China's efforts to demonize Mr. Lee may backfire. Hong Kong citizens are sophisticated, educated people who treasure their freedoms and will recognize a mainland-style smear campaign for what it is.

When reached by telephone yesterday, Mr. Lee said he was "flabbergasted" by the attacks. True to form, he's fighting back by telling the truth about what he believes. As for China and its spokesmen, their heavy-handed assault will only draw more attention to Beijing's own lack of freedom.

(The Standard)  Paper fires back at Lee attackers.  Carrie Chan.  October 30, 2007.

The Wall Street Journal has rallied to the defense of veteran lawmaker Martin Lee Chu-ming and hit back at several Hong Kong newspapers for launching a smear campaign against the democrat over his call on Western leaders to force Beijing to improve human rights ahead of next year's Olympics.

The WSJ warned that freedom of speech has been eroded as the political assault on Lee intensified.  The US newspaper also accused the pro-Beijing camp and top government officials of "adding fuel to the fire."

Its article, entitled "China and Martin Lee," said: "Earlier this month, we were pleased to publish an op-ed by Hong Kong legislator Martin Lee on democracy in China. Little did we know it was seized by Beijing sympathizers as a chance to undermine freedom of speech in Hong Kong.  "The assault, which has the flavor of a Cultural Revolution struggle session, stems from an October 17 op-ed, `China's Olympic Opportunity."'

The WSJ article singled out four newspapers and called their reports a politically motivated assault on Lee.  "On his return to Hong Kong last week, the political assault started. On Friday, a raft of pro-Beijing newspapers, including Hong Kong's largest- circulation daily, Oriental Daily News, as well as Ming Pao Daily News and Sing Tao Daily, ran leading stories attacking Mr Lee. [Oriental Daily's subtitle headline was Martin Lee: A Crazy Traitor.]  "The ... South China Morning Post also took up the cudgel, saying Mr Lee's comments would `fuel Beijing's worst fears about Hong Kong being used as a base for foreign interference."'

A Beijing source told The Standard yesterday he was "puzzled" why the WSJ targeted only four print media, and avoided other local newspapers like the Beijing-funded Wen Wei Pao and Ta Kung Pao, and the electronic media.  "It's interesting to see some external forces trying to turn Lee's saga into an international campaign against the Beijing Olympic Games. On the contrary, some local democrats, in particular, those contenders in the November 18 district council elections, have longed to dampen the negative impact of this saga on their electioneering," the Beijing source said.

But the WSJ also blasted pro-Beijing loyalists, the Hong Kong government and Chief Secretary of Administration Henry Tang Ying-yen.  "Hong Kong's Beijing-controlled legislature joined in the criticism, while the chairman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong called for Mr Lee to apologize. Several dozen people jeered Mr Lee as he left the legislature.  The Hong Kong government did not muster a defense of Mr Lee's right to free speech. Hong Kong's second- highest ranking official, Henry Tang, told reporters [last] Friday that the Olympics shouldn't be `politicized."'

The WSJ praised Lee as "Hong Kong's most eloquent and famous democracy advocate, his words carrying weight in Western capitals" and warned that China's "efforts to demonize Mr Lee may backfire."  The WSJ added: "Hong Kong citizens are sophisticated, educated people who treasure their freedoms and will recognize a mainland-style smear campaign for what it is. The attacks on Mr Lee have also been widely reported in Taiwan, further undermining any Beijing hope that that island's people will accept Hong Kong's `one country, two systems' as a model for unification.

"As for China and its spokesmen, their heavy-handed assault will only draw more attention to its own lack of freedom."