Fri, Jul 14, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Chan slams leadership

HONG KONG The former No. 2 official in the territory attacked its business tycoons and called on China to allow universal sufferage


One of Hong Kong's former top officials stepped up her attacks on the current administration, saying it was becoming intolerant of divergent views on democracy, according to an interview published yesterday.

In the interview with the Wall Street Journal Asia, Anson Chan (陳方安生) called on Beijing to allow universal suffrage in the territory.

Many Hong Kong observers have said Chan, the territory's former No. 2 official, is likely considering a leadership challenge, as she has grown increasingly vocal in recent weeks about her support for full democracy in the territory.

She said in the newspaper interview the city's pro-Beijing leaders and tycoons are denying its people the right to pick their own leader and its entire legislature.

"This government is becoming increasingly intolerant of different viewpoints," Chan was quoted as saying.

"Isn't it ironic that you have countries like Afghanistan and Kuwait where women have been given universal suffrage and yet there's a body of opinion in Hong Kong and mainland China that says Hong Kong is not yet ready for democracy?" she said.

Only half of Hong Kong's 60 lawmakers are elected, while its leader is picked by an 800-member committee loyal to Beijing.

Chan criticized Hong Kong's business community for being politically conservative, accusing them of relying on Beijing to block democracy, the report said.

"If we don't watch it, there will be forces within the business community that will wish to make Hong Kong like any other Chinese city," Chan was quoted as saying.

Chan's high-profile backing of the democracy cause in recent weeks has sparked intense speculation that she will run against Chief Executive Donald Tsang (曾蔭權) next year. She has neither confirmed or denied the rumors, but has said she would make an announcement soon.

Chan, who retired in 2001, did not push for full democracy when she was in office either before or after the return to Chinese rule. But she said times have changed and the territory has moved on.

"It's an insult," Chan said. "This view that if you have free elections someone unsuitable in their [Beijing's] eyes will be elected ... China should have more faith in the Hong Kong people."

Part of Chan's appeal derives from her interest in ensuring that Hong Kong maintains a separate identity from China.

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