Sat, Jul 03, 2004 - Page 5 News List

US supports Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters

AP , HONG KONG

The US government voiced support for hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong protesters who marched for democracy, despite Beijing's objections that such remarks amount to meddling in its internal affairs.

"We respect the Hong Kong people's right to express their commitment to democracy and political reform peacefully," US Consulate General spokeswoman Susan Stevenson said on Thursday night after a massive demonstration to demand the territory's people be allowed to select their leaders.

"As we have said many times, it is up to the Hong Kong people and the government of Hong Kong to determine the pace and scope of democratization," Stevenson said in response to a query from reporters.

When the UK returned Hong Kong to China in July 1997, the territory was guaranteed a "high degree" of local autonomy. Critics charge that China violated that deal when it ruled in April that Hong Kong people cannot directly choose their next leader in 2007 or all lawmakers in 2008.

"The long-standing policy of the United States has been to support Hong Kong's move toward electoral reform and universal suffrage as provided for in the Basic Law," Stevenson said. "We believe that continued progress is essential for Hong Kong's success, prosperity and stability."

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