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30 March 2005
Mr Lee Kuan-yew, the founding father of Singapore, advised people in Hong Kong today to stay away from politics and stick to business, saying Beijing has no intention of allowing greater democracy in the territory.
Mr Lee, known for his blunt, outspoken remarks, also said unpopular former Hong Kong leader Mr Tung Chee-hwa didnt have the ability to steer the territory through troubled political times. Mr Tung resigned three weeks ago, citing poor health.
I think he was too nice a man, not sufficiently young and limber. He wasnt a street fighter, Mr Lee said. In the Hong Kong situation with people out in the streets, you want a street fighter.
Mr Tung had tried to introduce a tough security law in 2003, prompting half a million people to take to the streets in protest.
After the demonstration, pro-democracy forces began calling for direct elections for the leader of the former British colony, which held onto many civil liberties when it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Beijing, however, last year rejected a quick transition to full democracy.
Mr Lee warned Hong Kong people not to meddle in politics. Beijing has no intention of allowing Hong Kong to be a pacesetter or a Trojan horse, or whatever metaphor you wish to choose, to try and change the system in China, Mr Lee said in a speech to business leaders in Hong Kong.
If you try to influence the course of events in China by example and say this is a better system, I would think that is not likely to win enthusiastic support, he said. If I were a Hong Konger today, Ill stay and do business. And I think you can do good business. Although Hong Kong enjoys a wide degree of autonomy guaranteed by Beijing under a special arrangement dubbed one country, two systems, Mr Lee said people in the territory should be realistic about political reforms.
You can make the life of your next chief executive as onerous and burdensome by making demands which you know he cant support because there are limits as to what you can do within the one country, two systems, he said. Or you can accept that there are these limits and within those limits, you can thrive and prosper, he added.