» 07/02/2004 HONG KONG CHINA Monsignor Zen: Signs of Reconciliation between Beijing and Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Forces
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) Before the pro-democracy rally that brought together 500,000 people in Victoria Park, several thousand Catholics and Protestants met to pray and chant. Monsignor Joseph Zen, Catholic Bishop of Hong Kong, delivered a speech whose full text can be read in other article. On the eve of his departure for Taiwan where he will preside over the ordination of two Vietnamese Salesians in mission on the island, he took time out to share with AsiaNews his impressions of yesterday's event. Here is what he said:
"I took part in the prayer session before the march. Of course, as Bishop I could not take part in the march. And I am sorry for that. But I felt the charged atmosphere. Moreover this year's organisation was well-thought out; decisive, not emotional. The turnout went beyond anyone's imagination. More so since China tried its utmost to discourage people from participating in march. No need to demonstrate, they said. And instead, there was a sea of people.
It is true that there is a discrepancy between the numbers given by the police and those given by organisers. But the police always tries to downplay the turnout. Like last year when it said that the official number of participants was only half a million when in fact it exceeded it.
However, I am happy to see the first signs of a rapprochement with China. In the last few days Martin Lee [former president of the Democratic Movement Editor's Note] tabled a very balanced motion in which he stated that the pro-Democracy forces are prepared to collaborate with the central government as a way of demonstrating their support for the notion of "one country, two systems." It would seem that China has responded encouragingly to this sign. In the beginning we thought that people might misunderstand and accuse Martin Lee of "treason" or "appeasement." The opposite is true. The turnout shows that people share this attitude of openness. Pro-Democracy forces stand firm but are open to reconciliation. There is a spirit of working for the common good.
Even the Beijing government seems to be softening its position. Vice president Zeng Qinghong, who is in charge of Hong Kong question, seems to understand that Hong Kong is different from the rest of China and that it must be treated in different manner.