Sun, Jul 27, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Beijing invites HK pro-China elite for rare summer visit

REUTERS AND AP , HONG KONG

Beijing has invited dozens of Hong Kong's pro-China elite to visit the capital to show support for the city's unpopular leader Tung Chee-hwa, the South China Morning Post said on Saturday.

"The central government is aware of the fact that a substantial number of Hong Kong delegates to the national congresses are dissatisfied with Tung's performance," a pro-Beijing politician told the paper.

Hong Kong professionals and business and political leaders are usually invited to Beijing at the end of September to participate in activities marking the National Day on Oct. 1, a pro-Beijing businessman told the paper.

"It is rare for Beijing to invite us to travel to the capital during the summer holiday," he said.

The politician said he expected Chinese officials to ask the visitors to make the preservation of social and political stability in Hong Kong their top priority.

Meanwhile, Tung has agreed to meet with pro-democracy lawmakers who fiercely oppose a proposed anti-subversion bill, an official said yesterday.

Many of the opposition figures are Tung's harshest critics, and the leader has long kept minimal contact with them, viewing many of them as troublemakers.

But Tung pledged to meet more regularly with political parties and community leaders to better gauge public opinion after half a million people hit the streets on July 1 to oppose the legislation.

Hong Kong plans to release a new, watered-down proposal for the bill outlawing treason, sedition, and other crimes against the state in September.

Tung will meet with 22 opposition lawmakers tomorrow, said Ruby Ng, a spokeswoman for Tung. Meetings with other political parties and professional groups were being arranged, Ng said.

Lawmaker and unionist Lee Cheuk-yan said they would demand that Tung shelve the bill and start anew following consultations with the public.

"He should start from a clean position," Lee said, adding that legislators would also press Tung to respond to people's demands that he and the legislature be elected by popular vote.

Ordinary people do not vote on their chief executive and got to choose just 24 of 60 legislative seats in the 2000 election.

Tung had originally arranged to meet the legislators before he was forced to scale back the security bill and then delay its passage after a key legislative ally refused to go along because of the huge protest.

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