Wed, Jul 07, 2004 - Page 5 News List

HK adviser loses job over democracy

AP , HONG KONG

A senior Hong Kong government adviser who joined a huge pro-democracy rally last week said yesterday that he has been ordered to leave his job while his contract runs out.

Joseph Lian, a member of the top think-tank for Chief Exeuctive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華), said in an e-mail to friends that he was told on Monday to take paid leave until his job ends on Sept. 14.

Government spokesman Eric Chan confirmed Lian's early departure from the Central Policy Unit and said Lian would not be coming back. Chan declined to give a reason but insisted Lian had not been fired.

Opposition lawmaker James To (涂謹申) demanded that the government give a public explanation. To said Lian's departure raises questions about whether the former academic was being "punished for his political inclinations or for exercising his civil liberties.|

News reports said Lian's relationship with Tung's government began to deteriorate after he attended a pro-democracy rally last year.

The last straw might have come last Thursday, when Lian attended another mass march demanding universal suffrage and condemning China's recent decision that said Hong Kong people cannot directly elect their next leader in 2007, or all lawmakers in 2008.

Lian wrote in the e-mail that he has often disagreed with major government policies over the past two years. Lian said his order to go on leave "comes as little surprise to me, given the current climate."

The pro-democracy marches have proven to be a major embarrassment and worry for Tung and the central government in Beijing.

But Lian said he has always "spoken my view, and thereby saved my soul."

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