JUNE 10, 1997
A look at the life of, and an interview with Tung Chee-hwa--the man who will take over Hong Kong when it is returned to Chinese control..
JIM LEHRER: Now a look at an and an interview with the man who will be in charge of Hong Kong when China takes over the British colony in 20 days. We start with a report from Ian Williams of Independent Television News.
IAN WILLIAMS, ITN: Hong Kong's future leader has been under growing pressure to demonstrate that he is his own man and will stand up for Hong Kong, but the image he's portrayed is that of a conservative, cautious man who'd clearly prefer his city to concentrate on its traditional money making ways than on divisive politics. A year ago Tung Chee-hwa was just another Hong Kong tycoon, rich and publicity shy. He made his fortune in his family's shipping business after they fled to Hong Kong from the Communists in 1949. But it was Communist China who bailed out the business when it faced bankruptcy a decade ago, and critics say that's left him beholden to Beijing.
EMILY LAU, Independent Legislator: I said from day one that he is Peking's puppet, and he will do what he's told. But I think what is also true is that he is also basically a very, very conservative person, very paternalistic, so we can safely assume that all the things proposed by Peking he also supports.
IAN WILLIAMS: Plans to reinstate colonial era curbs on the right of assembly have been softened after a public outcry. But authorities will still have the power to ban protests on the grounds of national security. But Mr. Tung is also planning new laws on subversion. He says he won't clamp down on protests that are within the law, but many are alarmed at the vagueness of those laws, which are used in a draconian manner in Mainland China. Mr. Tung has said the annual June 4th vigil commemorating the Tiananmen massacre can go ahead next year. Last week, after he'd urged the people of Hong Kong to put what he called the baggage of Tiananmen behind them, tens of thousands turned out to pay their respects. He also urged the colony's Democrats to accept the reality of a provisional legislature, selected by China to replace the one democratically-elected two years ago. But the Democrats are set to launch a legal challenge against the provisional body as early as tomorrow, claiming its existence breaks the basic law governing the return of Hong Kong to China. From his office in Hong Kong's commercial heartland, Mr. Tung looks out towards a new building that will house Beijing's top officials in the territory after the handover and from where, many fear, the real decisions will soon be made.
JIM LEHRER: Now, to the interview conducted by Jon Snow of Independent Television News.
JON SNOW, ITN: On June 4th, next year, when they remember Tiananmen Square, 55,000 people will be allowed out onto the streets again to demonstrate?
TUNG CHEE-HWA, Future Chief Executive, Hong Kong: Demonstration is part of our culture, so long as they're legal; they're peaceful; they're orderly, of course, they will be permitted.
JON SNOW: Even if they criticize the authorities in Beijing?
TUNG CHEE-HWA: I think they will be permitted so long as they are peaceful, lawful, and orderly.
JON SNOW: You said the other day that you felt it was time that people forgot the baggage of Tiananmen Square, as you put it. What did you mean by that?
TUNG CHEE-HWA: Well, there we are, by July 1st, it is a most significant event for Chinese people, the return of Hong Kong to China, and is a very happy event. And I want to be sure that we are happy; that Hong Kong is going to go through a smooth transition; and I said, let us put aside the baggage of June 4th; let us look into the future, build an even better Hong Kong for ourselves and for our children.
JON SNOW: But that baggage is about respecting human rights, isn't it? And that is really the great worry, isn't it, because the--the system, as you put it here, has respected human rights in a different way to that which the Communist Party in Beijing has respected them.
TUNG CHEE-HWA: But, Jon, you know, as I said many times, human rights is not a monopoly of the West. We all want human rights. I want human rights. I care passionately about human rights, but each country has their own priorities. For China, it's a question of moving the country ahead, of making it more prosperous. And look what they have done. Even in the eight years since June 4th, because the society is stable, is orderly, the government can move ahead with so many different programs to create a better livelihood for all the people, for all the 1.2 billion people.
JON SNOW: If you feel that what is--the pressures coming from Beijing are wrong for the Hong Kong that you love, would you consider resigning?
TUNG CHEE-HWA: Our economic future is interlinked with China. Our culture is linked with China. What is good for Hong Kong is actually good for China, because we do contribute to China's modernization. And what is good for China is very good for Hong Kong. The long-term interests of China and Hong Kong are the same, but in the short-term there will be differences of view. We all do, you know, but if there are differences of view, we sit down and talk it through quietly as to what is the best way forward.
JON SNOW: Do you think you'll have to imprison people for political views in this country?
TUNG CHEE-HWA: You mean in Hong Kong?
JON SNOW: Yes.
TUNG CHEE-HWA: Well, let me say this. Hong Kong's freedom of expression, movement, capital flow, information, is all guaranteed by the basic law, so Hong Kong will continue to be what it is today. That is very clear, but I want to say this. Under Section 23 of the basic law it does say--make special emphasis to say that Hong Kong is going to enact laws on issues such as sedition, subversion, secession, and so on and so forth. I will not permit Hong Kong to become a base to destabilize China. This is not acceptable to large group of people in Hong Kong, because it is not in Hong Kong's interest to permit this. Certainly it is not in China's interest to do this. This cannot be permitted.
JIM LEHRER: The handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China takes place at midnight, June 30th.