Stop Interfering with Freedom of Expression

Press release

21 August 1999

Human Rights Monitor today expressed concern on Vice-Premier Qian Qichen's comment that "because of the one-country principle, 'two-state theory' should not be promoted in Hong Kong." His remark came after Hong Kong pro-Beijing politicians and newspapers made vigorous attacks on Cheng An-kuo's support of "two-state theory" in a program broadcast on Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK).

Human Rights Monitor disagrees that there is any one-country principle in our legal system which prohibits the freedom of expression and of the press in Hong Kong as such. Neither do Qian's Seven Guidelines issued in 1995 themselves prevent broadcasting, reporting and discussion of views on the status and future of Taiwan.

Although by making the recent remark Qian was not legislating for Hong Kong, he has, perhaps inadvertently, exerted pressure on the local media, especially on RTHK, and thereby promoting self-censorship. The remark has tuned Hong Kong authorities towards a more intolerant style of governance as shown in the Government's statement issued yesterday.

We are very disturbed by the Hong Kong Government's statement which criticised Cheng for his "inappropriate opinion." Such a criticism unnecessarily interferes with Cheng's freedom of speech and burdens the local media with pressure in addition to that already exerted by the Vice-Premier.

The Government fails to understand international human standards and that Cheng is entitled to express his political opinion freely in Hong Kong.

The Government's intolerant interference with Cheng's speech has shaken the assurances that the Government respects the freedom of expression in Hong Kong. It has also cast doubt as to whether the Government respects RTHK's editorial independence in having invited Cheng to deliver his view though its air wave.

Human Rights Monitor reminds the public that Article 23 of the Basic Law (which requires Hong Kong to legislate to prohibit secession, sedition, subversion and treason) is always a serious threat to a free Hong Kong. This incident highlights the need to oppose any attempts to enact any such laws which would limit our rights in Hong Kong.

Free speech and free press are the hallmarks of a free Hong Kong. No authorities, whether central or local, should discourage peaceful discussion. Silencing Hong Kong will only cast doubts on the "one country two systems" arrangement and damages the cause of the unification of China.

1999 (c) Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor

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