Did Beijing Interfere with "The Future of China"?
"The Future of China," an international forum on the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party held in Hong Kong, was forced to move at the last minute from the Conrad Hong Kong Hotel to a public park. Many believe the hotel revoked its contract with the Epoch Times because of pressure from Beijing.
Organized by the Epoch Times' Hong Kong branch, the forum was the first public discussion in the English language of the Nine Commentaries in this Special Administrative Region. Its guest speakers included Robert Anders, Member of the Canadian Parliament, Ming Chu-Cheng, Professor of Political Science at National Taiwan University, and Szeto Wah, former Member of Hong Kong's Legislative Council.
On Sept. 29, the day before the event was scheduled to take place at the Conrad's Hennessy Room, the hotel's management notified the Epoch Times that the room had "serious flooding" and demanded the forum be transferred to another place.
But according to Epoch Times staff who visited the site, although some water marks were visible in the ceiling, there was little evidence of flooding–in fact the room had a function going on during the inspection.
These staff members told the hotel officials that they found the room's condition perfectly acceptable. The hotel management recommended alternative facilities outside the hotel, but Epoch Times staff said they would accept any risk associated with using the room in its condition. They noted the inconvenience and confusion to guests if the forum were moved to a distant location, and the unacceptability of a lower class of facilities offered for such a first-class forum and caliber of guests invited.
Around 7 a.m. on Sept. 30, a forum attendee saw Conrad Hotel staff remove the sign advertising the forum from outside the hotel. He was told that the forum had been moved to a nearby hotel. Upon learning that this was not the case after inquiring at the nearby hotel, he immediately contacted the Epoch Times' Hong Kong office.
When the Epoch Times contacted the Conrad Hotel they were told that the hotel had unilaterally cancelled the contract.
The forum was scheduled to start at 2 p.m.–the Conrad's last-minute decision gave organizers no time to alert people about any change in plans. About 1 p.m., the audience with tickets issued in advance began to show up; among them were Legislative Council members, representatives of various consulate generals in Hong Kong, government officials, and university professors and students.
The forum finally began at 2:30 p.m. in an open area in the nearby Hong Kong Park.
Signs of Beijing Meddling
When Hong Kong's Immigration Department rejected Professor Ming Chu-Cheng's visa-application for entering Hong Kong, many suspected that Beijing was acting behind the scenes. On Sept. 26 Ming submitted via a travel agent in Taiwan an electronic application for a Hong Kong visa but received a rejection 30 minutes later.
Ming said he was very surprised because in the past he had gone to Hong Kong numerous times for academic research and sight-seeing and his visa-application had never been rejected.
When Ming resubmitted his application, it was approved. But upon his arrival at the Hong Kong International airport he was interrogated by officials of the Immigration Department for nearly two hours.
Commenting on Ming's experience, Amy Chu, Director of the Epoch Times Hong Kong, said that in 2002 the Hong Kong government had barred the Australian artist Zhang Cuiying from entering the city for an exhibition of her paintings organized by the Epoch Times. Chu said that the Chinese government has some kind of "black list."
Epoch Times staff said the cancellation was probably due to pressure from the outside that caused the Conrad to back out of hosting the forum.
A Successful Event
In spite of the unexpected incident, the Epoch Times's Hong Kong office said the forum was a success, and that "a considerable number of consulates sent congratulatory letters and representatives to the forum. Legislators, lawyers, and scholars also attended the forum."
"The last-minute permit we got from the Police Department for using the Hong Kong Park was for an assembly of no more than 50 people, but the forum was so orderly and well-mannered that having about 100 people there was no problem. However, some of the forum guests who had arrived at the hotel left after they heard that the hotel had cancelled. It's really a pity," said a spokesperson for the Epoch Times's Hong Kong office.
But they were more concerned about the civil rights of the people in Hong Kong, which seem to be eroding under pressure from the specter of Beijing.