SCMP Wednesday, June 28, 2000

Anti-reform protests leave Qian unworried

NO KWAI-YAN in Beijing

Vice-Premier Qian Qichen has expressed no surprise over recent rallies against government policies, according to Financial Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.

After a meeting with Mr Qian, Mr Tsang said the Vice-Premier fully understood the way people aired their grievances. "He knows very well we are a pluralistic society and people are used to expressing their opinions in a way different from that of the mainland. He was not surprised."

Thousands of demonstrators marched on Sunday against various government policies, including housing, education and medical reforms. Mr Tsang said he told Mr Qian it was not abnormal to have opposition to reforms.

"I told him these reforms were something Hong Kong should have done before the handover and the Chief Executive, therefore, now has to deal with them after the change of sovereignty. They include reforms on housing, environment and education.

"There must be voices of opposition when it [reform] touches on established interests. But we cannot stop because such reforms are necessary for our long-term development."

Mr Qian was also told the demonstrations might be related to the Legislative Council elections in September.

Mr Tsang said he also shared his thoughts on the civil service with Mr Qian and on the no-confidence vote facing Director of Housing Tony Miller.

"I hope people will be fair when dealing with it," he said, referring to Mr Miller's case.