Anson Chan the former Hong Kong Chief Secretary discusses the pro democracy protests and the current political situation in Hong Kong.
EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: Anson Chan was the chief secretary of Hong Kong, both during British rule and in the first years after the hand-back to China.
She was the most senior civil servant then and is now the head of Hong Kong 2020, which monitors political reform in the city.
Anson Chan is currently in London and she joined me from there a short time ago.
Anson Chan, thanks for joining us.
ANSON CHAN, FMR HONG KONG CHIEF SECRETARY: You're very welcome.
EMMA ALBERICI: Tell us: what is at the heart of the demands of those on the streets of Hong Kong?
ANSON CHAN: What is at the heart of the demand is that Beijing fulfils its promise to the people of Hong Kong to give us genuine one man, one vote for the election of our chief executive in 2017.
Instead, what we are seeing is that our own government has taken Hong Kong through a sham consultation and we now have a very rigid framework handed down by Beijing which in effect says to the people of Hong Kong: you can have one man, one vote, provided we pre-screen all the candidates so that we are 100 per cent in control of the final outcome. This is not acceptable to the people of Hong Kong.
EMMA ALBERICI: When you were running the civil service in Hong Kong under the British administration, did you suspect at that time that China may well renege on its commitment to democracy for Hong Kong?
ANSON CHAN: Not at all. In fact I, together with many others including the community at large, believed in the sincerity and commitment of both cosignatories to the joint declaration - that is China and Great Britain - that they will honour all the promises laid down in this international treaty and guarantee Hong Kong people not only "one country, two systems": a high degree of autonomy, independence of the judiciary, the rule of law and our rights and freedoms and, in particular, that we will move steadily towards genuine universal suffrage.
EMMA ALBERICI: How are you anticipating Chinese authorities will ultimately respond? I mean, we've already seen a fairly heavy-handed approach. Do you expect Beijing to just wait out the protests now?
ANSON CHAN: Well, we have indeed. And it remains to be seen whether Beijing will at long last listen to the voices of the Hong Kong people. People are actually being very reasonable about this. They're peace loving. They haven't thrown stones or burned police cars, despite provocation from the police themselves.
And we're waiting to hear from our own government and from Beijing that they will at long last give to the people of Hong Kong what we want and what they have promised. But for the time being, the outlook doesn't look very promising.
EMMA ALBERICI: You're in London right now. Earlier this year you said some people in Hong Kong believed Britain had failed them. Is that what you thought?
ANSON CHAN: It's not just what I thought. I think a lot of Hong Kong people feel that they have been abandoned by Great Britain, despite the fact that they put their signature to the joint declaration and it was on this basis that they handed 7 million people back to mainland China.
EMMA ALBERICI: Will you be lobbying the British government to intervene? And in what way?
ANSON CHAN: I think in particular, given what has happened - the fact that riot policemen have been rolled out to fight against people who are unarmed and very young people at that - that the whole world will wake up and take notice of what's happening in Hong Kong and look at the way that Hong Kong is being treated by mainland China.
If mainland China is allowed to walk away from its commitments under an international treaty, then it doesn't say very much for China's commitment to the rest of the world as regards the other treaty obligations.
EMMA ALBERICI: Realistically, what could the British Government do?
ANSON CHAN: Realistically, the British Government should make it quite clear they take their responsibilities seriously: that Hong Kong is important not just in its own right but the fact that Hong Kong is an international city. Many countries have their nationals living there and considerable investments and they want Hong Kong to succeed every bit as we in Hong Kong want Hong Kong to succeed.
And mainland China should actually be allowing us to have one man, one vote. That's the best way of securing Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability and, at the same time, persuade Taiwan down the same road.
EMMA ALBERICI: So far, have you had any positive signals from Britain?
ANSON CHAN: We've not had any positive signals. Although I note that the prime minister at long last had expressed concern about what's happening in Hong Kong and has underlined their desire to see democratic reforms in Hong Kong. So maybe there is hope yet.
EMMA ALBERICI: In what way is a more democratic Hong Kong a threat to Beijing?
ANSON CHAN: It is not a threat. We have been trying to say to Beijing: Hong Kong people can be trusted to exercise that vote responsibly. We will elect a chief executive who can on the one hand work with Beijing but on the other hand be seen in the eyes of the Hong Kong people to be standing on our side, to be helping us implement "one country, two systems", protect our core values and our lifestyle. There's absolutely nothing to fear by giving Hong Kong people one man, one vote.
EMMA ALBERICI: Are we seeing the "one country, two system" model that was put in place when Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997: are we seeing that system fall apart, do you fear?
ANSON CHAN: We are indeed. We've seen a steady erosion of two systems. We've seen Beijing saying to the people of Hong Kong, in the recently issued white paper, that whatever little autonomy we enjoy is for Beijing to give and take away at its pleasure, quite contrary to the promises laid down not only in the joint declaration but in our mini constitution, the basic law.
We're also seeing threats to the rights and freedoms that we enjoy, particularly freedom of the press, and the independence of the judiciary is also now at risk.
EMMA ALBERICI: Is there a fear that, if democracy does take hold in Hong Kong, that it will spread to greater China?
ANSON CHAN: Some people suggest that yes, they are afraid about this contagion effect. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, isn't it? If you will only trust the people of Hong Kong, we will demonstrate to you that democracy not only is good for Hong Kong people but in the longer run our country must also move towards that goal. Maybe not for the time being but, within the mainland, people are pressing for more accountable and more transparent government.
EMMA ALBERICI: Under that "one country, two system" model, there was to be a form of democracy by 2017. That is, of course, just three years away. Do you now think Beijing will honour that agreement?
ANSON CHAN: At the moment it is standing very, very firm. But Hong Kong people are now going together. We have been fighting for democracy for the past 30 years. It is a promise that Beijing has made to the people of Hong Kong and we are not going to give up.
EMMA ALBERICI: Is there any common ground you can see between the protestors and Beijing at this point?
ANSON CHAN: At this point in time: no. But the Hong Kong government must realise that they have to think of a way forward. This is the time now for the Hong Kong government to demonstrate leadership and accountability.
They have to hold out something to persuade the protestors to at least disperse and sit down at the negotiating table. So we're all waiting to see what the government's next move is.
EMMA ALBERICI: Hong Kong is, of course, an international financial hub. If democracy is wound back, what do you expect the impact might be on the business community there?
ANSON CHAN: I think it will definitely affect the overall business environment and business confidence. Business is already very worried at any suggestion that the independence of the judiciary might be compromised. Business is also worried at the sheer impotence of the government to make policies and to govern Hong Kong effectively.
And if rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression and freedom of the press, continue to be seriously eroded, then I'm afraid foreign investors are going to ask themselves: why bother to be in Hong Kong if Hong Kong is going to become just another Chinese city? Why not move straight into China?
EMMA ALBERICI: Anson Chan, we have to leave it there. Many thanks for your time.
ANSON CHAN: Thank you.