The US urged China on Monday to quickly set up a timetable for full democracy in Hong Kong, where people staged mass protests on Sunday demanding the right to choose their leaders.
"We believe that it's important to achieve universal suffrage in Hong Kong as soon as possible, that the people of Hong Kong are ready for democracy, and that the sooner that a timetable for achieving universal suffrage is established, the better," deputy US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said.
"And it's certainly, I think, the spirit in which the demonstrations took place," he said, referring to mass street protests in Hong Kong on Sunday demanding full democracy that was promised when Britain handed its former colony back to China eight years ago.
Pro-democracy leaders have also demanded an audience with Chinese chiefs to press their case and called on supporters to join them in yet another demonstration over this weekend.
Ereli said the US had communicated its "clear and consistent policy with regard to democracy in Hong Kong" to pro-democracy Legislator Martin Lee (
"We also make clear that the pace and scope and shape of democratic reform is for the people of Hong Kong to decide," Ereli said.
Ereli also indicated that the US had raised the subject of democratic reforms in Hong Kong directly with Beijing.
"We have made it clear to all parties concerned that universal suffrage is important and that we look to, as I said before, the people of Hong Kong to determine how that universal suffrage comes about," he said.
Meanwhile, the US ambassador to China yesterday accused Beijing of restricting Chinese advocacy groups on the mainland and urged the country to improve its human rights record.
"We are concerned by recent restrictions on Internet postings and a crackdown on non-governmental organizations," Ambassador Clark Randt told US business executives in Hong Kong.
"Human right abuses in China are still all too common," Randt said, citing examples of China's arrest, detention and imprisonment of journalists, ministers and academics on a range of charges from subversion and espionage to the leaking of state secrets.
"A China that respects certain fundamental human rights, is open to all forms of religious thoughts and that allows its citizens freedom of spiritual expression, will be an even greater and more respected China," Randt said.
He said he understands that Beijing is eager to maintain stability, with a rising number of demonstrations across the mainland.