Wed, Jul 14, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Tung `planting a time bomb' in HK

AP , HONG KONG

Pro-democracy activists protest outside Hong Kong's Legislative Council yesterday, demanding that Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa step down.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Pro-democracy lawmakers yesterday accused Hong Kong's leader of "planting a time bomb" in the territory by ignoring its people's desire for freedom, in their first question-and-answer session since a massive pro-democracy rally on July 1.

Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華) responded by saying he had listened to the people's views but had to follow Beijing's instructions.

Pro-democracy Legislator Andrew Cheng (鄭家富) accused the unpopular Tung of "taking an unconcerned attitude toward our democratic aspirations."

"If you continue to take this attitude, don't you worry that you are planting a time bomb for your administration?" Cheng asked Tung.

It was Tung's first public showdown with lawmakers since the protest, which organizers said attracted 530,000 people. Police said the crowd numbered 200,000.

"Mr. Tung, how many people do you want to see marching in the streets before you line up with them and urge the central government to give us democracy?" Cheng asked.

Tung said he had relayed the Hong Kong people's aspirations to the central government, but said that was about all he could do.

Beijing issued a "binding" decision in April that ruled out direct elections for Tung's successor in 2007 and all lawmakers in 2008, so it was now his job to implement the ruling, not question it, Tung said.

Beijing also said it would need to give advance approval for any political reforms being considered in Hong Kong.

Separately, a top official with China's government liaison office here, Peng Qinghua, again told reporters that it was not practical to make fresh demands for direct elections in 2007 and 2008.

Peng said the recent march was peaceful but called it "irresponsible" to stir up demands for something Beijing has already ruled out.

Tung yesterday repeated Bei-jing's claim that a quick move toward full democracy would be a threat to political stability and the economy.

"The decision by the central government is for the long-term benefit of Hong Kong," Tung said. "We cannot simply view this from the Hong Kong point of view, we have to view the matter from our country's point of view."

Tung refused to respond to a question from opposition Legislator Emily Lau (劉慧卿) about why he thought a quicker shift toward democracy would be harmful to Hong Kong. Lau is one of Tung's fiercest critics and he said her queries reflected "the lack of communication" between them.

Beijing's actions have escalated tensions between Hong Kong's pro-democracy and pro-government camps. Critics charged that Beijing violated its promise to give Hong Kong a significant deal of political autonomy following its return from Britain to China in 1997.

Hong Kong's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, sets out full democracy as an eventual goal but gives no timetable.

Ordinary citizens in Hong Kong have no say in picking their leader. Tung was chosen by a committee loyal to Beijing, although rank-and-file voters will directly elect 30 of 60 lawmakers in September, up from 24 in 2000.

In a conciliatory gesture, Tung told lawmakers he needed time to help pro-democracy lawmakers obtain the necessary permits to visit China. Beijing has long viewed opposition politicians as troublemakers and banned them from entering, but Chinese officials have indicated they will relent in a bid to improve ties.

Last week, Beijing issued a travel permit to a prominent Hong Kong filmmaker and rights activist, John Shum (岑建勳), who then flew to China for the first time in 15 years.

This story has been viewed 4148 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top