Thursday, May 20, 2004

Warships in Hong Kong harbor

Your editorial “Threatening Hong Kong” (May 11) accused China of “threatening the use of military force to kill Hong Kong’s yearning for democracy” by sending a “naval battle group” to Hong Kong. It also attacked a recent decision by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) on the methods for selecting Hong Kong’s chief executive in 2007 and forming the Legislative Council in 2008. The editorial’s accusations are groundless.

First, under international law, China, as a sovereign and independent state, has every right to send its naval ships to any ports in its territory, including the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China (HKSAR). As a matter of fact, the visit to Hong Kong by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) navy task force last April was part of a program celebrating the 55th anniversary of the PLA navy. During the stopover, the task force was welcomed warmly by Hong Kong residents, and more than 20,000 local residents went onboard the warships for tours.

Contrary to what you asserted in the editorial, this was not the first time since 1997 for Hong Kong residents to welcome the PLA navy. A PLA navy task group made a three-day port call to Hong Kong in November 2001.

Second, it is the firm and consistent position of the Chinese government to develop democracy in Hong Kong under the Basic Law, which has explicit provisions on the major principles governing the development of democracy in Hong Kong. These include consistency with the actual situation, gradual and orderly progress and balanced participation. One must recognize that Hong Kong’s history of democratic elections is not long, and that Hong Kong residents have exercised the right to select their own chief executive for just seven years.

The general public in Hong Kong is sharply divided on how to elect the chief executive in 2007 and the Legislative Council in 2008. There still is no consensus on the issue, and the conditions for universal suffrage still are not available. The NPC Standing Committee’s decision is fully consistent with the provisions of the Basic Law and with the actual situation in Hong Kong, and it also is good for the long-term stability and prosperity of Hong Kong.

Third, it must be pointed out that the NPC Standing Committee’s decision leaves adequate room for modification of the methods for selecting the chief executive in 2007 and for forming the Legislative Council in 2008. We firmly believe Hong Kong’s democracy will continue to move forward and that the HKSAR eventually will attain the ultimate objective, as stipulated in the Basic Law, of selecting the chief executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee. This must be in accordance with the democratic procedures and of electing all members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage.

Last but not least, the NPC is the highest lawmaking body in China, and its Standing Committee’s decision is an important document that is binding on all of China’s local legislatures, including Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.


Press counselor and spokesman

The Chinese Embassy


Marriage rights

In Wednesday’s editorial “A ‘marriage’ proposal,” you boil democracy down to majority rule. You never learned that the judicial branch has a role in protecting the rights of minorities when the public at large treads on them.

Slavery’s demise and blacks’ civil rights never would have come about by sending those issues to the “people” for a vote. And it is not just people (as states or by themselves) or God who determine a right. As the Founding Fathers understood, it is reason that defines a right. Barring fallacies such as tradition, “majority” culture, religious bigotry and, worse, plain old confusion, there is no reason why homosexuals should not have the right to marry.




Your editorial “A ‘marriage’ proposal” isn’t just misguided — it’s misleading.

You claim that same-sex couples are marrying in Massachusetts because of “the judicial fiat of four activist judges.” The fact is that six of the seven justices on the Massachusetts high court were appointed by Republicans and have handed downnumerousrulings cheered by conservatives.

You claim that those of us asking courts to rule in favor of equal marriage rights for same-sex couples are not abiding by the democratic process. The fact is that our country’s centuries-old system of government tells citizens to turn to the courts when they believe their rights are being violated.

The only efforts to circumvent our system of government are proposals to amend the Constitution and campaigns to demonize judges who are simply doing their jobs. We believe homosexual Americans deserve the same security and protections, including marriage, that everyone else enjoys.

We also know that most Americans don’t want to start editing our Constitution or reorganizing our system of government in order to deny fundamental rights to their neighbors and co-workers.


Executive director

Lambda Legal

New York

Passions over ‘Saved’

Your Cal Thomas column “Unlearned lesson of ‘The Passion’” (Commentary, Sunday) was an unfortunate and disappointing opinion piece.

Michael Stipe and I have been film producers for more than 10 years. Mr. Stipe and I have more than 15 film credits between us, including the acclaimed “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing,” the Oscar-nominated “Being John Malkovich” and our most recent film, “Saved.”

“Saved” is not, as Mr. Thomas would suggest, representative of “Hollywood’s cynical approach to anything higher than gratuitous sex and violence.” It is a satire, but it is a sweetly subversive satire. It is a film whose positive, faith-affirming message should speak to many Americans, Christian or otherwise. It certainly will challenge some audiences, and it also may provoke heated religious discussion.

You may want to take a look at the many Internet message boards devoted to the film. What you will notice is that the underlying mantra from posting to posting is, “See the movie, then decide.” I would advocate that you do the same rather than prejudging “Saved” based on what seems to be an article in the New York Times.

Mr. Thomas’ arguments may indeed be valid and certainly are well-taken, but I think he’s going after the wrong film. “Saved” is an intelligent pro-family comedy that deserves a chance to be seen around the country. Whether it will do “Passion”-size business is a question none of us is fit to answer, but will it be a film that, like “The Passion,” provokes us to converse, debate and learn from one another? We certainly hope so.



Single Cell Pictures

West Hollywood, Calif.

Oceana’s supporters

I was distressed to read Wednesday’s Notebook by Gene Mueller (“Keep an eye on Hollywood do-gooders,” Sports) and wanted to correct its errors.

Mr. Mueller contends that Oceana, a nonprofit international ocean conservation group, is a “coalition of various entertainer-run foundations” that “consists of the Streisand Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trust and various Turner foundations.” This is false. Oceana is not a coalition. It is a single organization. Also, though Pew Charitable Trusts (which is not, as far as we know, run by entertainers) is a generous supporter of Oceana, as are many other foundations and thousands of individuals, we receive no funding from the Streisand Foundation or Ted Turner. We are proud to claim Ted Danson, who just completed a TV ad on behalf of a recreational fishing group, as a board member.

Mr. Mueller also inaccurately stated that Oceana, which is actively partnering with recreational fishing groups to find solutions that allow conservation and fishing, “hopes to expand marine protected areas (MPA) where fishing will be permanently banned.” This is false. We don’t work on the MPA issue, and we won’t work on it in the future unless we can do so in a way that unites our friends in the conservation and recreational-fishing communities.


Vice president and chief scientist

North American oceans



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