Martin C.M. Lee is Chairman of the Democratic Party, Hong Kong’s largest and most popular political party. Prior to the founding of the Democratic Party in October 1994, Mr. Lee was Chairman of the United Democrats of Hong Kong — Hong Kong’s first political party — which won the first-ever democratic elections to the colony’s Legislative Council in 1991. The Democratic Party has received wide support from Hong Kong’s people for its stance that Hong Kong must develop democratic institutions and preserve freedoms and the rule of law if the territory is to continue to prosper after the 1997 transfer of sovereignty to China.
A barrister, Mr. Lee was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1979 and served as Chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association from 1980-1983. He was first elected to the Legislative Council in 1985 (as the representative of Hong Kong’s legal community) and has been re-elected in every election since. In the legislature, Mr. Lee has fought for full democratic elections, opposed press censorship and sought to safeguard the rule of law. Mr. Lee served from 1985-1989 as a member of the Basic Law Drafting Committee, the body appointed by Beijing to draft Hong Kong’s post-1997 constitution.
September 1995 Elections:
On September 17, 1995, Hong Kong citizens voted to elect a legislature for the last time in Hong Kong’s 150-year colonial history. Despite the greater resources of the Beijing-backed candidates and China’s explicit threats to scrap the legislature, the Democratic Party repeated its electoral successes, winning 19 seats to become the largest party in the Legislative Council. Mr. Lee was overwhelmingly reelected in his Island East constituency and overall, the Democrats and their pro-democracy allies won 17 of 20 democratically elected seats available, capturing 85% of the popular vote. China insisted the elections — the most democratic in Hong Kong’s history — were “unfair and unreasonable” and “did not reflect the will of the Hong Kong people.” Chinese premier Li Peng reiterated China’s pledge to abolish the legislature when Beijing takes over on June 30, 1997.
In March 1996, Liberal International — representing 70 political parties around the world — awarded Martin Lee the Prize for Freedom at the World Council of Liberals’ meeting in Edinburgh. In August 1995, the 350,000 member American Bar Association awarded Martin Lee its 1995 International Human Rights Award “in recognition of extraordinary contributions to human rights, the rule of law and the promotion of justice.” In June 1995, Asiaweek magazine named Mr. Lee one of Twenty Great Asians “who have changed the region over the past two decades.” In September 1995, ABC TV named Martin Lee its “Person of the Week” for leading Hong Kong’s pro-democracy forces to electoral success.
Mr. Lee is active in community affairs and social service organizations in Hong Kong. He was Chairman of the Hong Kong Consumer council from 1988-1991, and serves as Legal Adviser to the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association, the Scout Association and numerous professional bodies.
Mr. Lee was born in Hong Kong in 1938. He received a B.A. degree from the University of Hong Kong and later studied law at the Inns of Court in London. He is married and has a son.