Mon, Mar 08, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Hu, Wen want review of `one country, two systems'

AFP , BEIJING

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) yesterday urged renewed study of the fundamental principle underlying the government of Hong Kong as a special region within China, Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華) said.

Wen's remark came one day after President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) was quoted in state media as saying the "one country, two systems" formula for Hong Kong, coined by late patriarch Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平), should be reviewed.

"Both [Hu and Wen] have said that [we need] to study once more what Deng Xiaoping said 20 years ago about `one country, two systems,' how it should work," Tung told a briefing yesterday.

"It is very, very helpful to realize the thought process behind what `one country, two systems' is all about, and therefore it will be very helpful for the constitutional development in Hong Kong in the future," he said.

Hu made the reference to the "one country, two systems" formula while meeting Tung on Saturday on the sidelines of the annual full meeting of the 3,000-member National People's Congress (NPC), China's parliament.

"It is necessary to review Deng Xiaoping's theory on `one country, two systems,' which is still playing a significant role in guiding practice," Hu was quoted by the Xinhua news agency as telling Tung.

According to the "one country, two systems" principle, the people of Hong Kong are to be allowed a great deal of autonomy while leaving only foreign policy and defense to the government in Beijing.

The principle has been at the heart of heated arguments in Hong Kong, with many people in the city worried that China wants to impose a greater degree of control.

Xinhua suggested Hu welcomed more debate on what exactly "one country, two systems" should mean for Hong Kong, reporting that he spoke "highly" of the "positive discussion on the principle."

"Both [Hu and Wen] welcome a calm and reasonable discussion of this particular subject," Tung said at the briefing.

Xinhua did not make clear in its report what Hu meant by "reviewing" the "one country, two systems" formula, which was originally phrased in order to find a system that could lure Taiwan to reattach itself to China.

Hu also said the Chinese government would continue to support the Hong Kong government's work in line with the Basic Law, its mini-constitution, and help Hong Kong in its economic recovery.

Even as Hu struck a conciliatory note in his talks with Tung, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星) said China "does not welcome [and] does not need any outside interference" on Hong Kong.

"Hong Kong is China's Hong Kong," Li told a press conference arranged on the second day of the NPC meeting.

Hong Kong's democrats and mainland China are embroiled in a row over political reform.

Democrats want universal suffrage in the former British colony by 2007, but Beijing is hoping to delay any decision on reform.

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