Sat, Jul 03, 2004 - Page 1 News List

HK activism is unharmonious: Chinese official

REUTERS AND DPA , BEIJING AND HONG KONG

Some placards and slogans at Hong Kong's latest pro-democracy protest were inappropriate and not conducive to stability and harmony, a senior Chinese official in the territory was quoted yesterday as saying.

Chanting "return power to the people," hundreds of thousands of people poured onto the streets of Hong Kong on Thursday to challenge Beijing's refusal to allow them to elect the city's chief executive and to vent their frustration at Chinese rule.

"Some protest organizers used placards and slogans that were inappropriate and not conducive to Hong Kong residents' common desire for stability, development and harmony," said an official identified only as the "person in charge" at the central government's Liaison Office in Hong Kong.

China's official Xinhua news agency did not say what the placards or slogans were, but analysts said Beijing sees the chorus to "return power to the people" as a veiled call for independence.

"We hope these people can follow the desire of a majority of Hong Kong people and play a genuinely constructive role to maintain stability and prosperity," Xinhua quoted the official as saying.

The demonstration, on the seventh anniversary of the former British colony's return to China, gave Beijing a taste of what it fears most, a mass show of public dissent.

But Hong Kong pro-democracy activists were quick to stress that what Hong Kong people wanted was more freedom under Chinese rule.

"We are here today to fight for democracy," veteran campaigner Legislator Martin Lee (李柱銘) said. "Not a single person here wants independence."

However, the Hong Kong government was warned yesterday to respond to Thursday's massive pro-democracy march or face a summer of social unrest.

Legislator David Chu (朱幼麟) described the march, which drew an estimated 530,000 into the streets, as Hong Kong's "most important event in recent history."

Organizers said as many as 530,000 people joined the protest, well over the 300,000 they had expected. But final police estimates were much lower, at 200,000.

Chu said the government had to respond to people's aspirations for democracy or the stability of the former British colony would be at stake.

"If we don't accommodate for this change quickly, there will be big instability."

One of the march's organizers, Legislator Lee Cheuk-yan (李卓人), described Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's (董建華) response to the march Thursday evening as disappointing.

Beijing-appointed Tung held a briefing after the march to reiterate what he has said before -- that any moves toward universal suffrage in Hong Kong must be gradual and must have China's consent.

Also see story:

HK march brings back memories of Tiananmen

US supports Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters

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