Sat, Jul 26, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Protest leaders want talks with Tung

AP , HONG KONG

Organizers of a huge protest that threw Hong Kong's government into crisis demanded yesterday that Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華) meet with them to discuss a national security bill that fueled the public anger.

Hong Kong plans to open the matter for public consultation in September when it releases a new, toned-down proposal for anti-subversion legislation.

Activists who got a half million people into the streets on July 1 to protest an earlier bill said yesterday that Tung should shelve it and enter into talks with them. There was no immediate response from Tung's office.

"Hong Kong people still have many doubts and they are against the bill," said Richard Tsoi, spokesman of the Civil Human Rights Front, an umbrella group for some 45 rights, religious and labor organizations that staged the big march. "The government should halt the legislation."

Meanwhile, a state-run Chinese newspaper on Friday accused Hong Kong's Roman Catholic Church leader, Bishop Joseph Zen, of "instigating" his followers to oppose the bill and stirring up public resentment against the government.

In a signed commentary titled "Catholic leaders forsake altar for political stage," the Hong Kong edition of the China Daily criticized Zen for meddling with politics in "a high-profile" way.

"In all the political episodes and disputes in Hong Kong in recent years, Zen had a finger in every pie," the newspaper wrote. "He has actually eclipsed all other trouble-making politicians."

Zen has vocally criticized the anti-subversion bill as a threat to Hong Kong's civil liberties.

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