Pro-democracy campaigners in Hong Kong were furious yesterday after being told they were "wasting their time" by pressing for early free elections.
Hong Kong's Chief Secretary and deputy leader Donald Tsang (
Tsang heads a taskforce on constitutional reform in Hong Kong set up after 500,000 people took part in a July protest demanding free elections in time for the re-election of the chief executive in 2007.
Presenting an interim report on Wednesday, Tsang said that although many submissions had been put forward calling for early democracy they would not be considered because of Beijing's decision.
"There is no more room for discussion on universal suffrage in 2007-08," Tsang said. "We should not waste time on this pointless
The remarks were widely criticized yesterday by pro-democracy advocates, who say it exposes the taskforce's work in gathering views on constitutional reform as a sham.
Democratic Party Legislator Yeung Sum (
Democratic Party chairman Lee Wing-tat (李永達) told the South China Morning Post the single most important demand, for universal suffrage by 2007, had been ignored.
"This so-called consultation is conducted in a bird cage," he said.
Hong Kong is entitled to universal suffrage from 2007 under the terms of its post-handover mini-constitution, the Basic Law.
However, the Basic Law does not specify a timetable and China's National People's Congress announced earlier this year there could be no universal suffrage in the territory for at least the next four years.
Currently, half the seats in the legislature are directly elected while the rest are chosen by largely pro-government professional interest groups. The chief executive is selected by an election committee.
In his interim report, Tsang suggested the legislature could be enlarged and that more people could sit on the election committee that chooses the chief executive.
The taskforce will submit a report to Beijing next year.
Meanwhile, the territory's most colorful political activist and legislator will take his call for greater democracy to Macau at the weekend and hopes to deliver a petition to visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao (
Leung Kwok-hung (
But this will be the first time he makes such an attempt in his new capacity as a legislator after winning a seat in September elections.
"I want to hand him [Hu] a petition asking for a vindication of the June 4 movement, a return of power to the people, the release of political prisoners, and full direct elections for Hong Kong and Macau," Leung said yesterday.
"Let's see whether they'll let me enter first," he added when pressed for details of his plan.
The June 4 movement refers to the student-led pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989, which Beijing condemned as subversive and crushed brutally, killing hundreds and possibly thousands of protesters.