Mon, Jul 14, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Lawmaker casts doubts on bill

DEMONSTRATION FALLOUT Anti-subversion legislation has had a rocky time of it in Hong Kong and influential legislator, Jasper Tsang, now believes it may never be passed

AP , HONG KONG

A leading pro-Beijing lawmaker in Hong Kong said yesterday the future is uncertain for anti-subversion legislation put on hold after a massive outpouring of public opposition.

Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa (董建華) amended and then delayed the planned measure, which would outlaw sedition, treason, subversion and other crimes against the state, after an estimated 500,000 people marched in protest on July 1, the sixth anniversary of the territory's return to China from British colonial rule.

"Now no one knows when the bill can go back to the Legislative Council, or even whether it can go back at all," said Legislator Jasper Tsang (曾鈺成), head of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong.

Tsang was speaking on government-owned radio RTHK.

While Tsang's party fully backed the measure, another pro-government lawmaker, Liberal Party chairman James Tien (田北俊), withdrew his party's crucial votes following the mass protest, effectively thwarting Tung's plan to pass the legislation on July 9 and setting off the biggest political crisis of Tung's tenure.

Tien also resigned from a top government policymaking body.

Beijing last week sent officials to Hong Kong to assess the situation, some of whom took the unusual step of seeking out pro-democracy lawmakers traditionally considered troublemakers.

More than 10 key members of Hong Kong's Democratic Party, including the party's chairman Yeung Sum, have been banned from visiting China.

But details of the meetings have been sketchy. The South China Morning Post reported yesterday a Democrat lawmaker met with two "provincial level" officials who asked him about Tung's unpopularity.

"They want to know why so many people are dissatisfied with the Tung administration," said the unidentified legislator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

He was also reportedly asked about the large turnout for the July 1 demonstration and his views on the new Chinese leadership, especially Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶).

Wen left a favorable impression on Hong Kong people with his down-to-earth style during a recent visit to attend handover anniversary celebrations, but he left before the July 1 protest got underway.

The Democratic Party's vice-chairman, legislator Albert Ho, had met with two Chinese officials, television station ATV reported yesterday, citing Democrat lawmaker Fred Li.

Meanwhile, an estimated 20,000 turned out yesterday for a pro-democracy rally full of fresh attacks on Tung.

"If there is democracy, the government will have to follow the will of the people," said K. Yam, a 68-year-old retired civil servant.

The demonstrators booed when the organizers played footage of Tung promising that the territory's freedoms were not threatened by the anti-subversion bill.

"No matter how much we dislike this leader or how unpopular he and his policies are, we still can't remove him," said Law Yuk-kai, director of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor.

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