Hong Kong 'dissident' row hits official China visit

August 11, 1995

The Hong Kong government's top education advisers have cancelled an official visit to China, following Beijing's decision to refuse entry to one of the delegation.

The chairwoman of the territory's Education Commission, Rosie Young, decided to scrap the high-powered delegation's visit to the mainland proposed for October after Beijing authorities announced their intention to ban entry to Cheung Man-kwong, a legislator for the Democratic Party and a representative for the education sector. Mr Cheung believes his application to join the trip was turned down because of his membership of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of the Patriotic Democratic Movement in China.

The alliance, which was formed shortly before the Tiannamen Square massacre in 1989, has been branded subversive by Beijing. Since 1989, its members have been unrelenting in their support for human rights both in Hong Kong and China, organising pro-democracy protest marches and demonstrations in the British colony.

Mr Cheung said: "Six years after June 4 1989 (Tiannamen Square massacre)I still consider myself a core member of the alliance and still support the Beijing pro-democratic movement. I suppose I am considered a dissident in China."

But Mr Cheung cannot see how his political stance could have any bearing on a trip to China with education as its sole theme. "This was not supposed to be a political trip," he said. "It was just a normal trip by the Education Commission, like recent ones we have had to Britain and Australia, to exchange views with education authorities in the host country and to visit universities and schools in Beijing and Shanghai."

"Everyone wanted me to go on this trip. People said: 'If you can go this time, it means the Chinese government has softened its policy on Hong Kong's democracy movement.' But obviously China still does not respect Hong Kong's political, cultural and social values."

In an interview with Hong Kong's Chinese-language press in late June, Weng Xinqiao, head of the New China News Agency (Xinhua) education and science department, gave an unofficial reason why China could not let Mr Cheung into the country. "I think (Cheung) is putting on a political show," he said.

When in early June the announcement from Beijing became official, Ms Young initially decided that the trip would go ahead as planned, one man short. Her change of heart came last week after Mr Lee, another member of the pro-democracy alliance and a prominent politician, was told that he would be banned from attending a law seminar on the mainland.

Explaining her about-turn, Ms Young said the education trip could not proceed "out of principle" and that Beijing had no right to interfere in decisions made in Hong Kong on the commission's delegation.

The Basic Law, Hong Kong's post 1997 mini-constitution, stipulates that China will refrain from interfering with the institutes of education in what will then be the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong.

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