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Hunger strike kicks off in Hong Kong

Hunger strike kicks off in Hong Kong

A group of democrats kicked off a week-long hunger strike yesterday, demanding that China promise full democracy here by 2012 as Beijing opened discussions about political reform in the city.
The National People's Congress Standing Committee went into its week-long meeting to discuss, among other items, a democratic reform report submitted this month by Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang.
In the report, Tsang shied away from setting a timetable as to when Hong Kong citizens will be able to elect their own leader and the entire legislature.
It only said opinion polls showed more than half the public expected the chief executive to be directly elected in 2012, although 2017 would stand a better chance of being accepted by most people.
It did not mention specifics on the legislature, in which half of the 60 lawmakers are directly elected, while Hong Kong's political leaders are selected by 800 mostly Beijing loyalists.
Hong Kong's democrats, who back universal suffrage by 2012, denounced the report, saying it distorted public opinion. They also warned that the Hong Kong government will lose the public's trust.
They also expressed fears that Beijing will rule out direct elections in 2012 and delay them until 2017 or will not give a clear timetable at all.
According to the Basic Law, a mini-constitution put forward when Britain ended its colonial rule over Hong Kong in 1997, the territory was supposed to be guaranteed universal suffrage - but no date was spelt out.
About 50 members of the Democratic Party are taking turns to go on hunger strike for at least 24 hours until next Saturday, when a decision is expected to be made in Beijing on the city's political future.
"We want to express our determination and send a clear message to Beijing in a peaceful way that Hong Kong people want democracy and urge them to respect people's wishes," said party chairman Albert Ho, one of strikers.
"If their result betrays Hong Kong people's wishes and rule out universal suffrage by 2012, they will not be able to face the Hong Kong citizens."
The strike was part of a series of campaigns launched by democrats this week in their final efforts to put pressure on Beijing to set a reform timetable.
Earlier, 13 pro-democracy lawmakers and 40 other campaigners handed in a petition to the Beijing representative office here, urging China to allow greater democracy in the city.
"We are worried that the date will be delayed 10 years after another 10 years. We don't want this to be compromised," said lawmaker Audrey Eu.
Outspoken pro-democracy legislator Emily Lau threatened to organize a large-scale protest next month if the result from Beijing is not satisfactory.
Several Chinese officials will be in Hong Kong next Saturday to explain Beijing's decision.


Updated : 2021-05-18 11:15 GMT+08:00