Mon, Sep 25, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Chan won't run in HK chief executive election

TOKEN OPPOSITION No other candidate in favor of democracy is likely to have the popular former official's wide-ranging appeal, much to the delight of Beijing

AP , HONG KONG

Popular former official Anson Chan's (陳方安生) decision not to run for chief executive of Hong Kong leader is a blow to the territory's democracy prospects, newspaper editorials said yesterday.

Chan, who quit as Hong Kong's No. 2 official in 2001, has recently become a advocate for full democracy in the Chinese-ruled former British colony, where the leader is picked by an 800-member committee loyal to Beijing and only half of the 60 lawmakers are elected.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang (曾蔭權), who is favored by China, is expected to win next year's race if he runs, but local newspaper editorials said some token opposition is better than none, and that Chan, who announced she won't run on Saturday, would have been the best candidate.

"Any other pro-democracy candidate, if there is to be one, will not carry anywhere near the same weight," the South China Morning Post said.

"However remote the chances of anyone who opposes Beijing's favored candidate even making a contest of it ... an unopposed nomination sends an even worse message," it said.

"Hong Kong calls itself a diverse society, but the leadership race has been consistently one-dimensional. Hong Kongers have never had a choice. It's saddening the situation has become like this," the Ming Pao Daily News said its editorial.

"If I have disappointed some people, I'm sorry for that," Chan said on Saturday as she announced her decision.

She said she would promote democratization through a committee she formed that aims to draft a roadmap toward direct elections for all political offices.

"The present rules of the game really do not encourage eligible people to stand for election," she said.

Chan fueled speculation that she would run for Hong Kong leader in recent months by criticizing the current government's failure to introduce full democracy, which China says it opposes in the short run.

She also took part in a large pro-democracy march on July 1.

Part of Chan's popularity stems from her apparent independence from Beijing, which took over Hong Kong from Britain in 1997.

Many locals are still skeptical of the Chinese government, fearing it may extend its authoritarian rule to the territory even though it has promised significant autonomy and Western-style civil liberties denied in the mainland.

Chan, who worked in Hong Kong's British colonial administration and stayed on after the change in sovereignty, quit in 2001 in a resignation blamed on differences with then-Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華), a staunch Beijing loyalist.

Critics say she was lukewarm toward economic cooperation with China.

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