Briefing by McCurry and Berger, Hong Kong

Office of the Press Secretary
(Hong Kong Special Administrative Region)

For Immediate Release July 3, 1998


The Grand Hyatt Hotel
Hong Kong Special Administration Region

12:11 P.M. (L)

MR. BERGER: We just had a very good meeting -- the President just had a very good meeting with Martin Lee. It lasted about 15 or 20 minutes. Mr. Lee started by expressing his gratitude to the President for, A, coming to China; B, for what he said while he was in China, to the Chinese people; and, C, for the remarks that he made this morning about Hong Kong and the importance of increasing democracy here.

He talked about the Asian financial situation and said that what is critical, from his point of view, is that there be, through this period, a democratic base put underneath any kind of economic reform; and the lack of a democratic base in his judgment has contributed to the economic problems.

He suggested that the first year since the reversion has gone well, from a perspective of civil liberties and democracy. He obviously believes that the process of democratic elections should be accelerated, that's his view of that. The President and he talked about changes taking place in China, the relationship of Hong Kong to those changes. As the President said in his speech, Hong Kong can be a window of the world from and to China. Mr. Lee indicated that Hong Kong can also be, in a sense, a laboratory for democracy for China -- that was not a quote, that was a characterization.

Q What did the President say to him when he mentioned that the process of democratic election should be accelerate? Did the President agree?

MR. BERGER: The President said what he indicated in his speech this morning, that there ought to be more democracy in Hong Kong, not less. I don't think it's for us to be expressing -- to get into the specifics of what the time table of that might be. But they've taken an important first step with the elections for the new legislative council, a third of which are directly elected. Mr. Lee would like to see that number increased and that process speed up. Ultimately that's for the people of China and Hong Kong to resolve. But I think the President expressed the overall sentiment that more democracy, not less, will be good for Hong Kong, good for China.

Q Sandy, did the President or Martin Lee talk about any specific civil liberties concerns in Hong Kong since the hand over?

MR. BERGER: No. He said that he thought in that respect things had gone quite well.

Q "He," meaning Martin Lee said --

MR. BERGER: Yes. And he said, you know, there have been a few problems here and there, but we don't need to go into that today. He was quite -- you need to catch up with Mr. Lee during the day, I think, so that he can characterize his own views. But I thought, having met with him on innumerable occasions in the past, he certainly felt very positive about what's happened over the last week.

Q Did you have to get permission from the Chinese government to meet with Mr. Lee, or how did you finesse that?

MR. BERGER: No. No, we neither sought nor, I think, needed permission to meet with Mr. Lee, or this group of people who are now meeting with the President, which is kind of an aggregation of people from the judiciary, people from the bar association, people from civil society here in Hong Kong. So there was no need or certainly no request for permission.

Q Lee was complaining earlier today, or I believe I saw him saying that -- complaining about the coverage arrangements, or that he didn't want this to be a secret meeting. Was that brought up at all and how did you guys decide to do what you did with us, in terms of coverage?

MR. BERGER: Well, I'm not sure whether he knew what the plans were. I mean, I think he's quite satisfied with the way that it's gone. We just had a pool spray, we had pictures taken when he was with the President. So I would imagine he's quite satisfied by that.

Q Why did you change your coverage plans? At first there was to be none of this.

MR. BERGER: You know, McCurry mixed it up every morning. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: That's literally what happened.

Q Why did you change the coverage plan?

MR. MCCURRY: Because there was no point in making an issue out of something that wasn't an issue. I think the only concern we had was to demonstrate that there is a wide cross section of democratic voices in opposition and we're having an opportunity to see a lot of that cross section here and we didn't want to single out any one individual in what is a much more vibrant movement. And that was the recommendation of Ambassador Boucher, who I trust with my life.

MR. BERGER: Counsel General Boucher.

MR. MCCURRY: Counsel General Boucher.

MR. BERGER: Let me just emphasize what Mike said. We put together the schedule, there's obviously time constraints that go into how you put it together. It was nothing -- there's no message intended by the way it was set up; but as it became a question, we just wanted to make sure it was not an issue.

Q Thank you very much.

China Briefings - July 3, 1998

Briefing by McCurry and Berger

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