Mon, Oct 09, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Lawyer scorns proposed Hong Kong roadmap

NO WAY A prominent democrat described as laughable and outrageous Beijing's intention to vet political candidates for the leadership of the territory

AFP , HONG KONG

A long-running feud over Hong Kong's political future is likely to continue after a leading opposition lawmaker yesterday attacked the latest government-proposed roadmap towards democracy.

Veteran democrat Emily Lau (劉慧卿) described as "outrageous" a proposal for the Chinese government to vet candidates before letting them run for the leadership of the former British colony.

"The proposals ... were preposterous as well as laughable," Lau said on local RTHK radio.

"They failed to strike a balance between addressing the concerns of Beijing and safeguarding the political rights of the Hong Kong people. They are an affront to the people's dignity and should be utterly rejected," she said.

support likely

Lau's rejection of the plan, which was drawn up by a panel appointed by government last week, is likely to be supported by fellow pro-democratic lawmakers, whose demand for a swift transition to full democracy has dominated the political agenda for more than a decade.

Under rules set in the city's Basic Law mini-constitution that came into effect when British rule came to an end and sovereignty reverted to China in 1997, Hong Kong must adopt universal suffrage as the means of selecting its leaders.

However, there is huge disagreement between democrats and the Beijing-backed government on how and when that happens.

The perception that the government is dragging its heels on reforms has twice in recent years drawn half a million people to protest in street rallies.

Consequently, leaders are still being chosen by an electoral college comprising 800 pro-Beijing elites.

The next such selection process is due in March next year.

A moderate reform proposal by the government late last year was defeated by legislators as not doing enough to achieve democracy.

In response, the government established the so-called Strategic Development Commission panel in a bid to restart the debate.

One of the panel's stumbling blocks is finding an electoral system that is acceptable to communist leaders in China, who fear that democratization in the country's richest city could destabilize the economy and spark calls for reform on the mainland.

Beijing's approval

Panel chief Professor Lau Siu-kai -- an arch-enemy of democrats who heads a pro-Beijing think tank that is close to the government -- said last week that vetting candidates would be the best way to ensure that only Beijing-approved people contested the city's leadership.

In her broadcast, Emily Lau poured scorn on Siu-kai's comments regarding Beijing's plans.

"If hurdles are to be erected to screen out unacceptable candidates, then it is not a real election," she said.

"Regrettably the discussions of the Strategic Development Commission showed that many members only know how to bend over backwards to address Beijing's concerns and have scant regard for defending Hong Kong's autonomy," she added.

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