Fri, Dec 23, 2005 - Page 4 News List

PRC, HK officials criticize democrats

AP , HONG KONG

China yesterday criticized pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong for rejecting a political reform plan because it lacked a timetable for when the territory can become fully democratic.

Beijing's representatives said Wednesday's vote went against public opinion -- although tens of thousands of Hong Kongers have marched through the former British colony to demand faster democratic reform.

Beijing's criticism raised fears that its communist leaders will harden their stance on its democratic development.

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of China's State Council said the vote was "not in line with the mainstream" of public opinion in Hong Kong and that the central government was "unwilling" to see the result.

The government reform proposal had represented "the principle of developing Hong Kong democracy in proper order," the office said, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

Despite the lawmakers' calls for Hong Kong to directly elect its leader and legislature, the central government said the territory's political system would remain unchanged at least through 2007, Xinhua reported.

Some analysts and newspapers expressed concern that Beijing will harden its stance because of its mistrust of opposition lawmakers in Hong Kong.

"Beijing is most unlikely to soften its stance and grant more concessions as a result of the vote. Indeed, there is every chance that the central government's position will harden," the South China Morning Post wrote in an editorial.

Earlier yesterday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang (曾蔭權) said he had no plans to propose new reforms until after a new leader is chosen in 2007, and called on lawmakers to improve their relations with Beijing.

Hong Kong's No. 2 official Rafael Hui (許仕仁) attacked opposition Legislator Martin Lee (李柱銘) and Catholic Church leader Bishop Joseph Zen (陳日君) for urging lawmakers to reject the reforms.

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