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Hong Kong activist denounces China's political reform timetable; others hail breakthrough

Hong Kong activist denounces China's political reform timetable; others hail breakthrough

Hong Kong's most prominent pro-democracy activist denounced Beijing's decision not to let the territory elect its own leader for 10 years, accusing China's government Sunday of stalling on democratic reform.
But leading newspapers hailed Beijing's ruling, announced a day earlier, that the former British colony can hold direct elections for its leader in 2017 and for its entire legislature in 2020.
Hong Kong's leader is chosen by an 800-member committee dominated by Beijing loyalists. Only half of the territory's 60 lawmakers are elected, with the rest picked by special interest groups.
Pro-democracy legislator Martin Lee said he and colleagues in the opposition are worried that Beijing, while it has said it is open to full democracy for Hong Kong, has not made any firm guarantees. He also said China might try to rig the future electoral process.
"This timetable is not real. This timetable can end up being nothing," Lee told The Associated Press outside Hong Kong's legislative building.
Editorials in Hong Kong's main newspapers, however, praised Beijing's new position.
"We now have what pro-democracy forces have clamored for _ a timetable to achieve universal suffrage," said the English-language South China Morning Post.
The Chinese-language Ming Pao Daily News called China's timetable for reform "a major breakthrough with landmark significance for Hong Kong's democratization."
"Rather than moaning about not getting universal suffrage in 2012, politicians should now work toward 2017 and 2020. A five-year delay is better than having an indefinite debate," the Post wrote.
Political scientist James Sung said the timetable was a major concession on China's part and pre-empts the pro-democracy activists' agenda.
"If the pro-democracy camp stays its ground ... it will slowly lose the hearts of the people," said Sung, who teaches at the City University of Hong Kong.
Any democratic reform proposals must be passed by a two-thirds majority in Hong Kong's legislature, which is now controlled by Beijing's allies. China also wants candidates for the territory's leader in any election to be cleared by a nomination committee, the makeup of which has not been decided.
Both the British and U.S. governments expressed disappointment with China's rejection of full democracy in Hong Kong by 2012.
"I remain of the view that both China and Hong Kong's interests will be best served by allowing Hong Kong to move to full democracy as soon as possible," said a statement issued by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
Britain also did not allow full democracy in Hong Kong during its rule, which ended in 1997.
Explaining China's decision in Hong Kong on Saturday, Qiao Xiaoyang, deputy secretary-general of the standing committee of China's National People's Congress, said Beijing wants a gradual approach to political reform.
He said Beijing noted opinion polls showed most of Hong Kong's people want full democracy by 2012, but also that many lawmakers supported a longer timeline.
"We've always believed opinions polls are an important basis for making policy, but they're not a fundamental basis for making policy," Qiao said.


Updated : 2021-02-27 18:57 GMT+08:00