Sun, Jan 17, 2010 - Page 4 News List

China dismisses legality of any democracy plebiscite

AFP , BEIJING

Protesters opposed to the construction of a high-speed railway linking to mainland China bow on a street in Hong Kong yesterday. Some 300 people took part in a second day of protests yesterday against the railway, which has become a lightning rod for broader discontent over lack of democracy and government accountability in Hong Kong.

PHOTO: REUTERS

China on Friday condemned a bid by opposition Hong Kong legislators to force a de facto referendum on the territory’s political system, saying such a vote would be illegal.

A statement released by China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office expressed “grave concern” over the plan, saying it was not in line with China’s Constitution or the Basic Law, which spells out Hong Kong’s political system.

“The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s Basic Law does not provide for a referendum system,” said the statement, adding that a poll would have no legal effect.

Officials with Hong Kong’s Civic Party said on Monday that five of the territory’s 23 opposition lawmakers would quit this month to draw attention to the slow pace of democratic reforms in the city.

They will give up their seats in the former British colony’s 60-seat legislature in the hope of speeding up progress toward direct elections, said Civic Party Secretary-General Kenneth Chan (陳家洛).

They hope that by resigning they can force by-elections that will become a de facto referendum on the controversial issue.

The five legislators, who will step down on Jan. 27, have not been named.

At present, only half of Hong Kong’s legislature is directly elected.

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