For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 11, 2001
Background Briefing by
Senior Administration Official
on President's Meeting With
Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung
the James S. Brady Briefing Room
5:43 P.M. EDT
MS. COUNTRYMAN: Thanks for
coming. We're just going to give a very brief readout of the
President's meeting with C.H. Tung. That will be ON
BACKGROUND. You should make your attribution to a senior
OFFICIAL: Hong Kong Chief Executive, Mr. Tung Chee-Hwa,
sometimes often known as C.H. Tung, met today with President Bush for
about a half hour. A net of the still photography that went
on at the beginning of the time. And this is the first time
that the two leaders have met before.
Mr. Tung is in the U.S. on personal
business, and during his visit to Washington he met this morning with
Secretary of State Colin Powell. He had lunch with Deputy
Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Members of his staff,
his trade minister met with the Trade Representative, Mr. Bob
Zoellick. And he had calls on Capitol Hill on both the House
and Senate side.
His visit coincides with the hearings on
the extension of normal trade relations to Hong Kong -- or rather,
normal trade relations for China. Hong Kong has, of course, always
been an active supporter of extending these normal trade relations.
I'll just take a few notes from what went
on in the meeting. The President made the point to the Chief
Executive that he was strongly committed to a constructive dialogue
with the People's Republic of China; that he had detected an ability to
work through problems, a vision to see beyond these things and to move
in that direction. He noted that his appointee to be
Ambassador to China had lived in Hong Kong for some time and is a
longstanding acquaintance of the President's.
I think there is the hope that Mr. Randt,
who is the nominee to be Ambassador to China, will soon be confirmed by
the U.S. Senate and be able to go to China.
The President mentioned his concerns for
religious freedom. And in response, the Chief Executive
emphasized Hong Kong's autonomous status and its commitment to several
freedoms. There was a discussion about normal trade
relations. And the President and the Chief Executive both
agreed on this importance. The brief touching on events in
the region and the cross-strait relations, and the President emphasized
the imperative of peaceful resolution of this issue.
Mr. Tung, in responding to the President,
brought him up to date because, of course, it's been such a long time
since the President has had a chance to visit East Asia; pointing out
that 50,000 Americans are living in Hong Kong -- there are 1,100
businesses there; that the U.S. is Hong Kong's largest trading
He mentioned the visit of Chinese
President Jiang Zemin in May and that President Jiang had affirmed to
him just how important he found good relations with the
U.S. And the Chief Executive I think indicated that he was
very pleased with all the indications he found during his discussions
here in Washington as far as the outlook for good relations with the
In talking about the four
years since the reversion of Hong Kong as a special administrative
region, Mr. Tung pointed out that he felt that the one country-two
systems has worked very well; that the commitment to rule of law had
remained -- freedoms of speech, of assembly, of press were being
retained -- and that the People's Republic of China had stayed out of
Hong Kong affairs, other than in defense and foreign affairs relations
within the constructs of the basic law.
Other than that, there was some discussion
in terms of the chief executive's views of Chinese history and setting
the stage, I think, for the President's visit to China later this
year. I think that covers most of the broad range of issues
that were covered during this meeting, and I'll be happy to take your
Q On freedom of
religion, did the President indicate his concern about the crackdown in
China and possible spillover into Hong Kong?
OFFICIAL: Yes, he did, and the Chief Executive pointed out
that the SAR operates under very different rules and that there is a
strong commitment in that direction in Hong Kong.
Q Did today's -- or
last night's Hong Kong legislative council action, basically giving
China the power to fire the next Chief Executive, did that come up?
OFFICIAL: That did not come up in the meeting with the
President. It did come up over at the State Department
earlier, and the Chief Executive indicated that it's been well
established for a long time that China has the right to take that
action, and codifies it into law. And so he gave some
explanation, I think, of that legislative act this morning.
Q Did you buy that
explanation? When he went out here, it looked like he had
pretty soft treatment and he wouldn't talk about distinguishing his
views on universal suffrage with the mainland. He really did
nothing to reassure us or the critics of any of these concerns, and
there are about a dozen of them, as you know. I mean, does
President Bush understand how serious this could be?
OFFICIAL: There was no, as I said, detail of this in the
discussion with the President. And there wasn't that much
detail on this, this morning. The Chief Executive, I think,
has made pretty clear his commitment to a gradual democracy in Hong
Kong. But there was not a detailed discussion of this
particular Hong Kong legislation.
Q What did he say
to reassure the White House -- that basically he'll leave Falun Gong
OFFICIAL: He indicated that there was no likely change in
the law, and that their existing practices -- which as he pointed out
in some detail -- permit a wide variety of beliefs and religions to be
practiced, would continue. There was no particular comment
about -- certainly not with the President -- about the future of the
Falun Gong, in general.
Q Does the
President mention specifically about the Falun Gong, or just in
general, about religious freedom?
OFFICIAL: He talked about both in general, and he mentioned
Falun Gong specifically as something that had generated a great deal of
concern among many people in the U.S.
Q The European
Union has raised concerns about economic freedom in Hong Kong and the
dominance of large Hong Kong companies. Is that something
OFFICIAL: That did not come up in the discussion.
Q -- about
Beijing's bid for the Olympics, did that ever come up?
OFFICIAL: It came up very briefly. And the
President took the position I understand Mr. Fleischer has often taken
here, that this is a vote by the International Olympic Committee, not
by the U.S.
Q And about the
cross-strait relations, besides the -- you mentioned about the
imperative of peaceful resolution. Beside that, what does
the President say?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's what the
President mentioned and talked about, that his position on this was
very clear, and that he was determined that people needed to understand
this very well, and that he had spoken on that subject before.
Q Would you say the
President is optimistic about the medium-term in Hong Kong --
OFFICIAL: The President is -- I took no view on the future
of economy or politics on Hong Kong.
Q The issue of
Taiwan going the way of Hong Kong, with the one country-two systems --
OFFICIAL: No, there wasn't an in-depth discussion about
Taiwan in that context.
Q When Mr. Tung
came here under President Clinton, there was discussion about the pace
of democracy. Did that issue arise here, and does the
President happen to feel that there could be a faster pace, or should
be a faster pace of democracy?
OFFICIAL: The President didn't express that
view. The general thrust of the Chief Executive's remarks
was that that was proceeding, but I'm not aware of any discussion, I
didn't hear any discussion of whether that should go faster or slower,
or whether it's going just right or not.
Q What about the
OFFICIAL: That was about the same way that it went on at the
State Department. We were reassured to hear the commitment
that this pace would proceed and didn't try to parse exactly how fast.
Q Could you tell us
about the State Department talks a little bit, and what difference
there was in topics between what was discussed there and here?
OFFICIAL: I'd say this was -- I think there was a lot in
common in the three meetings. I think Mr. Tung was delighted
to come to Washington, and he's obviously been concerned that if
relations are bad between China and the U.S., that that is bad for Hong
Kong, economically and probably other ways as well.
And so in that context, in really all
three meetings I was a part of there, he seemed to be very pleased that
that relationship is, at very minimum, on an even keel, and may well be
improving. And the prospects of visits to China by the
President would support that.
Q Could you tell us
who initiated the visit? Was it the U.S. side or --
OFFICIAL: I don't know the answer to that. I
think Mr. Tung was coming for a private visit that presumably he had
scheduled some time in advance, and offered himself, if he was in
Washington, to pay these calls, and we were happy to respond.
Q Was this the
first meeting --
OFFICIAL: First time the two gentlemen have ever met.
Q So, even before
OFFICIAL: Yes. So that the Chief Executive knows
former President Bush very, very well, and I think there was a brief
discussion about that. But President Bush -- George W. Bush
-- had never met Mr. Tung before.
Q Did Mr. Tung try
to bring any kind of message from --
OFFICIAL: He did not.
Q Was he asked to
take a message back?
OFFICIAL: He was not.
Q -- from the lack
of specificity in the conversations that you also don't share the
concern that some of us have been raising about Hong Kong and the
future? Or did you miss an opportunity to be a bit more
OFFICIAL: (Laughter.) I'm briefing about the
President's meeting, and I didn't have a meeting with the Chief
Executive on my own.
Q There have been
comments from the Consulate General on Hong Kong earlier this year that
Hong Kong can be a case more of one country than two systems at
times. Has Mr. Tung said anything in either the State
Department meetings or the presidential meeting to overturn that view?
OFFICIAL: Yes, I think he has, because particularly on his
emphasis on the freedoms that people have in Hong Kong to pursue
various personal interests on their own, and that he expresses a lot of
pride in the one country-two systems as a combination
formula. And I don't think -- well, I'm not going to
characterize whether he would agree or not agree to whether that system
is deteriorating or enhancing. But he certainly made that
point. And so there was not legislation in Hong Kong -- as
far as I know, there was no special or unique crackdown on any
religious practitioners. And this difference with China I
think pretty clearly understood.
Thank you very much.
END 5:56 P.M. EDT