By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
Lee Cheuk-yan, one of the barred Hong Kong pan-democracy legislators who will be travelling to Macau with a group of more than 30 peers at 9am from the Kowloon peninsula today, defended that the democrats are not “troublemakers”, adding that all they want from the trip is to see a healthy relationship between the two SARs.
Speaking to the Macau Daily Times in an exclusive interview at the Hong Kong Legislative Council Building, Mr Lee, who represents the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, said that he has asked two steel workers, who were barred from Macau “due to their involvement in a protest in 2007”, to join the group.
A total of 31 Hong Kong residents already have their participation confirmed in this morning’s trip, including legislators, District Council and party members from the Democratic Party, Civic Party, Confederation of Trade Unions, the Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood and the League of Social Democrats, as well as “independent legislators” such as Cheung Kwok-che, Joseph Lee Kok-long and Cyd Ho Sau-lan.
Mr Lee did not reveal what their plan will be if some of the members are refused entry to Macau.
He said that lawmaker Ng Kuok Cheong and the New Macau Association will come to the Macau ferry terminal to pick them up at 10am, which will be followed by a three-hour seminar in the association office where they will discuss how Macau’s political and economic conditions have changed since the national security law came into effect early this month.
In response to Stanley Ho Hung-sun’s comment made in Beijng last week that the barred Hong Kong residents are all “troublemakers,” Mr Lee fought back by describing Ho as “old and confused.”
Hence, the legislator told the MDTimes he and the rest of the group intentionally chose to depart from the Hong Kong China Ferry Terminal as a way to express their discontent towards Ho’s statement.
Mr Lee also warned that if Macau’s immigration policy does not change today, further actions will be taken afterwards in order to pressurise their Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen to solve the issue without just showing “verbal concerns”.
Below are the extracts from the interview. “R” represents the reporter; “Mr Lee” represents Lee Cheuk-yan.
R: How do you comment on Stanley Ho Hung-sun’s statement that the barred Hong Kong residents are all “troublemakers”?
Mr Lee: First, Ho Hung-sun is really “old and confused” for criticising all of us as troublemakers. In fact, fighting for democracy, human rights and freedoms is for the good for the whole of China, Macau and Hong Kong. In contrast, those “old and confused” people are from the “vested interests groups” and only want to hold firmly their vested interests. They don’t want China or Macau to progress.
We want to protest against Stanley Ho and thus we chose not to go from Shun Tak terminal (today).
R: Some Macau lawmakers had said before the passage of the national security law that Hong Kong people should not intervene in Macau’s internal affairs. How would you see this comment?
Mr Lee: As what people always say, Macau and Hong Kong are two brothers. So if our brother is in trouble, shouldn’t we have supported him? It’s not necessary to make such a distinct separation between the two places. Also, the successful enactment of the national security law in Macau would have impact on Hong Kong. So we hoped to support Macau’s pro-democratic party to fight for a longer consultation period and a legislation which would better respect human rights. I think we only performed our brotherly responsibility and did not aim at interfering in Macau’s internal affairs.
The government’s “hasty” legislation showed that they didn’t respect its people who should have spoken out more about the law.
R: How confident are you in getting through Macau’s immigration?
Mr Lee: We’ve prepared something for a situation in which some of us can’t enter Macau. We’ve discussed all possibilities – all of us can get through, none of us can get through or only part of us can get through. But we haven’t particularly made an assumption. Of course we hope the Macau government will keep hold of an open attitude and all of us can get into Macau. We’ve thought through what our plan will be if some of us are refused entry. But we don’t want to disclose it ahead, as we want to make this a normal trip of Hong Kong residents participating in an exchange activity in Macau. We don’t want to appeal to people that we’re well prepared (for a possible entry ban). But of course whatever we do it will be of peaceful.
R: Did Civic Party’s secretary general Kenneth Chan Ka-lok’s successful entry increase your confidence in perhaps receiving the same treatment?
Mr Lee: His entry was a good phenomenon to show that it (Macau’s immigration policy) is not falling back. If Chan wasn’t allowed to enter Macau, it meant that the situation was going backwards since Johannes Chan Man-mun (dean of the Law Faculty at the University of Hong Kong) was refused entry late last month.
But it’s not certain whether the policy has been improved until Sunday (today).
R: Is the group’s actual purpose of the trip to test Macau’s entry ban?
Mr Lee: It is just the Macau government which creates a situation of so-called “testing the entry ban”. If it let people to go in normally and never refused entry, our trip wouldn’t be seen as an action to test Macau’s immigration policy. Our main goal is to normalise the relations between Hong Kong and Macau, and make sure exchanges between their people can be conducted freely. That’s why we’ll be meeting with the New Macau Association to talk about the latest political and economic conditions after the national security law was in force, which I think is a normal exchange.
R: Some media speculate that the entry ban is to prohibit the pro-democratic parties of Hong Kong from establishing an intimate tie with their Macau counterpart which could reinforce the democratic power in Macau and eventually influence this year’s chief executive election. Is it possible?
Mr Lee: It would be great if we could have the ability to boost Macau’s democratic power by making few visits. Everyone knows that the election is “much secured”. It’s a “birdcage election” – the world’s biggest example of a “result-controlled election” besides Hong Kong. Macau’s democratic camp must be a minority in the political system. Even if we went to Macau often to meet with them, it wouldn’t have a significant impact on the election.
R: Edmund Ho denied the entry ban was in relations to Article 23, whilst security secretary Cheong Kuoc Va insisted there was no immigration blacklist. If it’s true, what do you think is the most likely reason for the past incidents?
Mr Lee: If Macau said it has nothing to do with Article 23, this will even make the situation worse as it means that the blacklist still exists after the national security law is enacted. I guess Cheong perhaps is just playing around with words, there is actually a blacklist but it may not be called a “blacklist”. It’s clear that the immigration officers (told Frederick Fung Kin-kee and Johannes Chan Man-mun) said that their names were on the “list”. If Edmund Ho and Cheong Kuoc Va said there is no blacklist, I think no people in Hong Kong will ever trust them. We just don’t know whose names are on the list.
So I think they (Ho and Cheong) couldn’t just say there was no blacklist or it was not related to Article 23, as it’s meaningless, the fact is you didn’t allow some people to enter Macau, in which the Macau government has adopted a hostile attitude and harmed the relationships between Hong Kong and Macau people.
I was even being treated more unjustly as I was turned away about a year ago when I was just travelling to see Chinese opera in Macau. I can’t understand why my name is on the list, and so as the steel workers who only protested against their employers, not Macau. I had requested Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong (Hong Kong security secretary) before to allow the workers to go back to Macau for a living, but he couldn’t help. So now the problem is like a snowball getting bigger and bigger, which is all caused by the Macau government itself.
R: How serious do you think the two chief executives have looked into the issue?
Mr Lee: We don’t hope to just hear them saying they are concerned, we want in the reality the link between Hong Kong and Macau has been unfrozen at last. So we hope on Sunday (today) we can enter Macau, an action to show that our relationship has been normalised. Only speaking is useless. Edmund Ho still stands firm on the entry ban and has never shown any regret for his doing.
R: So you’re demanding for an explanation for the past entry refusals to Hong Kong residents?
Mr Lee: Certainly I would like an explanation. But I can just forget the past and most importantly is to have our relationship with Macau returned to normal.
So okay, if you (Macau) let all our people get into Macau, I’m willing to get over the past and frankly speaking we don’t necessarily need to drag on the issue endlessly.
R: Does it mean that if on Sunday (today) things don’t go smoothly, further actions will be taken afterwards?
Mr Lee: Of course. If all of us cannot get into Macau, the problem between Hong Kong and Macau will continue to deteriorate which must have to be solved by the SAR governments. We must have to insert more pressure on Donald Tsang Yam-kuen as the responsibility is on his hand. But we haven’t thought of staging a protest yet. It will depend on whether the issue will come to a stage that requires such an action.
R: A lot of people say it’s actually a good thing to have a law that protects national security. So is it possible to balance national defense as well as human rights in the law?
Mr Lee: To be honest many countries also have national security legislation. It’s not a technical problem for a jurisdiction to maintain such balance in the law, but is about their “position” of whether the Chinese central government or the Hong Kong government will reintroduce the very same legislation that was shelved in 2003, as it clearly violates Hong Kong people’s human rights and freedoms. We think that under a non-democratic political system which is controlled by the central government, we don’t have confidence that its products will respect individual rights. To maintain such a balance, people must have faith in the legislative body, the chief executive, and the central government that they won’t unreasonably offend our freedoms. Looking at the history of how China perceives the notion of national security, we don’t believe the law can preserve Hong Kong people’s rights. That’s why this time we are going to meet with the New Macau Association and see whether the concerns we have on Hong Kong’s anti subversion bill have been solved in Macau’s national security law.
R: It is said that Macau won’t be prosecuting people based on the national security law as the central government wants to show to Hong Kong that such legislation won’t do great harm to the people. Could this be possible?
Mr Lee: Yes, the chance (for Macau to cite the law) is small. But the guillotine is already set up and the blade is already above your neck, you’re still alive but it doesn’t mean that it’s okay. The blade is still there. So even though no one will be convicted by the national security law in Macau, Hong Kong people still cannot be at ease.