Thu, Jul 08, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Tung says he's powerless to push talks with China

AFP , HONG KONG

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華) said yesterday that he was powerless to re-open talks with China on democratic reforms after a huge rally by hundreds of thousands last week.

Tung said he would not ask China to review an edict issued in April that snuffed out hopes of a swift transition to democracy in the territory.

"I understand that the public are disappointed by [Beijing's] decision but as chief executive I have no authority to change that decision," Tung said after an hour-long meeting with 20 pro-democracy legislators.

The meeting was the first contact between the government and the pro-democracy lobby since an estimated 500,000 people marched last Thursday to demand the right to directly elect the territory's leaders.

Tung said he would pass on the views of pro-democracy groups to Beijing but stressed he would not ask China to review its ruling.

Last week's march was fuelled by anger over China's ruling and fears for freedom of speech in Hong Hong. The huge turnout raised hopes China might re-address the reform issue and Tung has been under pressure since to raise the matter in China.

In yesterday's meeting, legislators led by Democratic Party chairman Yeung Sum (楊森) and firebrand Frontier party chief Emily Lau (劉慧卿), asked Tung to urge Beijing to reopen the debate.

A disappointed Yeung said after the meeting that Tung had flatly turned down both requests.

"He said it was not a new situation ... he doesn't see a need to review the decision," said a grim-looking Yeung, flanked by Lau and Martin Lee (李柱銘) of the Democracy Party.

"He said he heard [the public demand] but he hasn't ... I can see clearly that he doesn't believe there is a need to have universal suffrage in 2007 and 2008," Yeung said.

He said the march had encouraged democrats to keep on pushing for change.

"The chance of seeing universal suffrage is always there. If we can keep on the fight in a peaceful and collective manner, it will come," he said.

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