Suffrage campaigner attacked by critics | Asia Pacific

Suffrage campaigner attacked by critics

Suffrage campaigner attacked by critics

Updated 20 March 2012, 8:20 AEDT

Hong Kong's leading campaigner for universal suffrage says the barrage of criticism against him by pro-Beijing forces has all the makings of the Cultural Revolution.

Martin Lee has been attacked by the media, legislators and protesters, after writing an article in the Wall Street Journal calling on world leaders to press China over its human rights record in the run up to the Beijing Olympics.

LEE: Anybody who has actually read it would say it was a very mild article. I was trying to be as positive as I can, although I did remind people of the promises made by the organisers of the Beijing Games back 2001, promising democracy and human rights, apart from developing the city, and promises that were never fulfilled. And then I called on President Bush and leaders of the other countries, not just to visit Beijing, as a sports fan, as President Bush claimed, but to do something about human rights conditions in China by direct engagement on these issues and so on

LAM: But do you understand though why the article has struck such a sensitive chord at a time when really Hong Kong and chief executive, Donald Chang, is trying to improve relations with mainland China and trying to convince mainland China that Hong Kong is well and truly a part of China?

LEE: Well, the article was written actually because certain groups I know, human rights activists and these are very respectable people are calling on a boycott of the Games. So I tell people not to boycott the games and to keep the games positively. And they turn it round and these newspaper articles all published on the same day attacking me on the basis that I asked people to boycott the games. So they twisted the language, they turn it round and then.

LAM: Well, you've compared the criticism against you to the Cultural Revolution, that's a bit of an exaggeration surely. I mean your freedom is not under threat for a start?

LEE: Well, just look at how it happened. The article was published and nothing happened until I returned to Hong Kong, and then all the pro-Beijing newspapers came out with front page story as some newspapers and devoting their entire page attacking me as a traitor for writing an article asking people not to boycott the games. And then there was the sustained effort a few hours later in the Legislative Council, I was again accused of being a traitor by some and I was then asked to apologise for something which I haven't done. And indeed there were then petitioners coming to the Legislative Council demanding an apology from me all within 12 hours.

LAM: Do you think that pro-Beijing forces in Hong Kong now take the place of Mao's little red guards? There was over zealous Communist students during the cultural revolution.

LEE: They did exactly the same thing. You did nothing wrong. They say you do something wrong and then ask you to apologise. I mean this is the same tactic. Although there is no longer the thing in China now. We signed the beginnings of it in Hong Kong, that is what it is burying.

LAM: Your critics of course accuse you of advocating outside interference in China's internal affairs, that it smacks of disloyalty?

LEE: Well, human rights knows no national boundary surely. Even China now complains about the US records of human rights, which is good.

LAM: On a wider issue, Martin Lee, you helped draft the basic law which of course promised universal suffrage, but did not set a timetable. Do you regret that now, not setting a timeframe for universal suffrage for Hong Kong?

LEE: No, actually the basic was set a timetable. It sort of prevented the development of full democracy within the ten years, the first ten years of hand over, but allowing Hong Kong people to have full democracy in 2007. Now the Beijing unilaterally change all that in 2004, and said we are not ready and if today we are not told when we will be ready, that's a problem.

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