US embassy cable - 05HONGKONG1769

ACTING CE TSANG SEEKS U.S. UNDERSTANDING

Identifier: 05HONGKONG1769
Wikileaks: View 05HONGKONG1769 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Hong Kong
Created: 2005-04-06 10:55:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PHUM PREL CH HK
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 061055Z APR 05
FM AMCONSUL HONG KONG
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9431
INFO AMEMBASSY BEIJING IMMEDIATE 
AMEMBASSY LONDON IMMEDIATE 
AMEMBASSY SEOUL IMMEDIATE 
AMEMBASSY TOKYO IMMEDIATE 
AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU IMMEDIATE 
AMCONSUL SHANGHAI IMMEDIATE 
AMCONSUL SHENYANG IMMEDIATE 
AIT TAIPEI IMMEDIATE 2585
C O N F I D E N T I A L HONG KONG 001769 
 
 
FOR ACTING A/S REVERE FROM CG KEITH 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/06/2029 
TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, PREL, CH, HK 
SUBJECT: ACTING CE TSANG SEEKS U.S. UNDERSTANDING 
 
Classified By: Consul General James Keith, Reasons: 1.4 (b,d) 
 
1.  (C) Acting Chief Executive (A/CE) Tsang called me late 
April 6 to provide background regarding the Hong Kong 
Government's (HKG) decision to initiate a request for an 
interpretation to settle the issue of the duration of the 
term of the CE to be elected in July of this year.  He said 
that a briefing for the Consular Corps was being scheduled, 
but he wanted to ensure U.S. understanding of the rationale 
for this course of action.  He emphasized he had consulted 
widely and publicly before embarking on what he termed a 
"last resort."  There were no other options that would 
produce an outcome consistent with his commitment to the rule 
of law and, he emphasized, in time for the upcoming July 
election.  Tsang advised that he believed it would be 
disastrous for Hong Kong if the election were not held on 
schedule, and he dismissed as unworkable the suggestion made 
by some legislators that the election be held even if there 
were no resolution of the debate over term of office. 
 
2.  (C)  Tsang averred this was an appropriate issue for the 
central authorities under the Basic Law because it addressed 
the relationship between the two systems under "one country, 
two systems" and it dealt with the appointment of the Chief 
Executive, both matters that were explicitly identified in 
the law as the proper ground for central deliberation. 
 
3.  (C)  Recognizing that the question of the process was the 
focus of international attention, not popular opinion, Tsang 
nevertheless noted that the Hong Kong people increasingly 
favored an interpretation from the National People's Standing 
Committee (NPC SC) to solidly ground the decision on the term 
of office for the next CE.  Tsang asserted that he was 
comfortable his Government's request for an interpretation 
would not erode the rule of law or the Hong Kong courts' 
authority. 
 
4.  (C)  Comment.  Tsang's outreach to the public on this 
issue and the care he has taken to be seen talking to the 
Hong Kong people, including opposition politicians, is 
notable.  He has performed well in the public arena and is 
being rewarded with popular support, despite opposition from 
pro-democracy politicians who fear the request for an 
interpretation will be seen as short-circuiting the courts 
and intervening in due process in Hong Kong.  Some will 
criticize this interpretation as indistinguishable from the 
previous two (on right of abode and precluding universal 
suffrage in 2007 and 2008).  There is to my mind a 
qualitative difference between the technical fix required of 
the Basic Law in this case and the broader political agenda 
evident in the April 2004 NPC SC's ruling out of universal 
suffrage.  Tsang is trying to establish a legal basis for the 
outcome already dictated by the central authorities. 
Ideally, Beijing would have transparently sought an amendment 
to the Basic Law to take care of this technical deficiency. 
I believe an interpretation, while inferior to an amendment, 
is better than no action at all.  At least an NPC SC 
interpretation will conform to the expectation that there be 
a legal basis for Beijing's decision.  Under the present 
circumstances, Tsang is doing more with the central 
authorities than his predecessor had done or would do in 
similar circumstances.  This is not supine obedience, but is 
rather a good faith effort to make the best of a bad 
situation.  End Comment. 
 
 
KEITH 

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