Thu, Jul 24, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Pressure to reform grows

TERRITORY IN CRISIS Influential figures in both Hong Kong and China have suggested that democracy is the only way to solve the former colony's growing problems

AFP , BEIJING

A leading Chinese official has indicated that political reforms are likely in Hong Kong while a top territory legislator said there was no avoiding universal suffrage, reports said yesterday.

"There will be economic, political reforms and other reforms to improve the livelihood of people," State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan (唐家璇) said on the sidelines of the Communist Youth League's 15th national congress.

Tang, in charge of Hong Kong affairs, did not elaborate on what specific reforms he was referring to, the South China Morning Post said.

His comments were the first indication from Beijing that embattled Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華) may speed up the political reform process after the recent resignations of two key ministers.

In an interview with the Hong Kong edition of the China Daily, Tsang Yok-sing, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, said choosing the chief executive by universal suffrage was the way forward.

"Universal suffrage [to elect] the chief executive is clearly the voice of the people taking to the streets on July 1," said Tsang, leader of the largest pro-China party in Hong Kong.

"To move ahead with the times, political parties have to consider this, the legislature has to consider this and the government also has to consider this," he said.

Tung, hand-picked by Beijing, is under intense pressure after more than 500,000 Hong Kong citizens took to the streets on July 1 demanding the shelving of a controversial subversion bill and calling for his resignation.

He travelled to Beijing on Saturday for a dressing down by China's top leaders who are concerned about social stability in Hong Kong, although Tung said they threw their support behind him.

Tsang said universal suffrage was an issue that "cannot be evaded."

"If the SAR government or even central government adopts a resistant attitude toward universal suffrage of the chief executive, it would only help the opposition to rally more people because this subject has the support of the citizens," he said.

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