Hong Kong democracy leader meets U.S. Secretary of State

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WASHINGTON, March 5-Hong Kong democracy leader Martin Lee met here Friday with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, whom he described as �very concerned� about the former British colony, RFA�s Cantonese service reported. A lawyer by profession best known for his pro-democracy activism, Lee voiced confidence that China's leaders understood the value of giving more freedom to Hong Kong but said media in the territory are censoring themselves.

"Certainly the Hong Kong press has not been freer than before-there is no restriction, to be fair, but there is a lot of self-censorship and it hasn't improved," he said, adding that Hong Kong people must remain "vigilant about guarding their freedoms."

"We had a very good meeting with the secretary who obviously is very concerned about Hong Kong," Agence France-Presse quoted Lee as saying. "We told him about the recent events in Hong Kong, which don't look too good for the future of democracy, but I assured the secretary that in the long term these strong attacks on us will go away and will die down."

"We are still confident that the new leaders, [Chinese President] Hu Jintao and [Chinese Premier] Wen Jiabao, will know ultimately that democracy is not something they should fear, and even if the democratic camp were to take the majority of the seats in the September elections this year they have nothing to fear, because we will be working for the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong,� he said.

Lee�s decision to fly to Washington to testify before a U.S. Senate panel enraged Beijing, which has attacked him over the last two weeks in its official media for reaching out to foreign governments. Lee told Senators that Hong Kong people were entirely ready for universal suffrage.

�In 1984, when the United Kingdom and China proposed their Joint Statement in Returning Hong Kong to China, the Chinese government looked to foreign governments to support the [plan],� under which Hong Kong was to remain essentially unchanged for 50 years, Lee told RFA�s Cantonese service.

�They were afraid Hong Kong people would be scared away from Hong Kong before 1997,� he said. �When the Chinese government attacks me for coming to this hearing, they don�t want to tell you that they also asked for U.S. support when they wanted Hong Kong� 10 years ago.�

Callers to RFA�s Cantonese-language hotline responded Friday with praise for Lee.

�Martin Lee and [Hong Kong legislator]Szeto Wah are the soul of our nation. They are the real representatives of China,� one man said.

Another male caller, a farmer from Guangxi, said, �Our farmers like Martin Lee�s political ideas. Please tell him that 900 million Chinese farmers are behind him and supporting him.�

Said another caller from Guangxi, �We support Martin Lee�s U.S. visit. He is 100 percent patriotic.�

State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said Lee and Powell had 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.

Asked if Washington supported Lee's agenda to introduce democracy in Hong Kong by 2007, Ereli said, "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.



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