August 1996

China Denies Visa to WWW Conference Speaker

by John December

HONG KONG -- Elizabeth Wong, a Legislative Councillor for Hong Kong, has been refused an entry visa to speak at the Asia-Pacific World Wide Web Conference in China. She had been scheduled to speak on August 23 in Beijing.

Councillor Wong had planned to speak about international government collaboration via the Web in Beijing. In an email interview, Wong says of her vision of international Internet communication: "My vision is that somewhere down the road, all countries will travel on this Internet highway abiding by the same code of civil behavior."

Wong won a seat in the first democratic elections in Hong Kong in September 1995. She is a vocal opponent of the planned replacement of that legislature in 1997 by a provisional legislature appointed by Beijing. Wong said of this provisional legislature: "It will snuff out Hong Kong's embryonic democratic development. It will spell the end to the Sino-British joint declaration's long-promised high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong."

Elizabeth Wong

In early June, Wong had applied for a visa to take a petition protesting the provisional legislature to Beijing. The petition was signed by 60,000 in Hong Kong. Although this visa application was rejected, she received an invitation letter from Tsing Hua University in mid-June formally inviting her to the August WWW conference.

On July 1st, a group of eight people (not including Wong) took the protest petition to Beijing. Their plane was met in Beijing by armed Chinese military personnel. The protesters' travel documents were confiscated, and they were turned back on the same plane.

Subsequently, Wong's invitation to the Beijing WWW conference was withdrawn. Wong is still scheduled to speak at the Hong Kong Web Symposium, which is associated with the Beijing WWW conference. [Note: CMC Magazine had run paid advertisements in its June and July issue about the WWW conference in Beijing and the Hong Kong Web symposium.]

Wong was formerly the Secretary for Health and Welfare in Hong Kong. In the September 1995 elections, she won the most number of votes among all elected Councillors. She has served in a variety of posts in the Hong Kong civil service and studied in the United States at the Harvard Business School.

Her scheduled speech in Hong Kong is entitled "Governments, Citizens, International Community: To Surf or Not To Surf? That's the Question!?" She says of government policy toward Internet communication: "I think government should not interfere, but should facilitate the development of the [Internet] industry through education and consumer satisfaction."

"I do not support any BIG BROTHER approach," Wong continues, "My call is for all nations to come together and discuss the difficult issues of the rights of the individual versus the responsibilities of the state." Wong advocates an international agreement under the umbrella of the World Trade Organization similar to the bi-lateral and multilateral treaties on intellectual property signed by many nations, including China. Wong says that this kind of agreement could be applied to the Internet. But, she laments, "Many countries still control the use of Internet which is like having the BIG BROTHER right in your sitting room. But I am hopeful for the future." [TOC]

John December is still scheduled, at this time, as a keynote speaker for the conferences in Beijing and Hong Kong.

Copyright © 1996 by John December. All Rights Reserved.

Contents Archive Sponsors Studies Contact