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Thousands march in Hong Kong

HONG KONG, China (AP) -- Pressure mounted for Hong Kong and Beijing leaders to respond to calls for full democracy in this Chinese territory as tens of thousands of protesters marched Sunday, demanding the right to choose their leaders.

Outside the government's headquarters, protesters demanded Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang respond immediately to calls for a roadmap specifying when and how the territory can have universal suffrage, promised as an eventual goal under its mini-constitution.

"I can't think of anywhere else in the world that you can have such large number of people turning out in such a peaceful manner to ask for something which is of their own right," said Ronny Tong, a lawmaker and march organizer.

Organizers said the protest drew 250,000 people -- far exceeding analysts' forecast of between 50,000 and 100,000. Police put the turnout at 63,000.

When Hong Kong was a British colony, its rulers denied its residents the freedom to elect their leaders and full legislature. The tradition has continued since the city returned to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that promised Hong Kong wide autonomy.

Sunday's turnout could mean hopes are faltering for the government to push through a package of political changes that critics say is too conservative.

The proposed changes call for doubling the size of the 800-member committee that picks Hong Kong's leader and expanding the 60-member legislature, as a step toward greater democracy.

Tsang and Beijing insist that much needs to be done before the city becomes fully democratic. They claim Hong Kong's political culture is still immature and extensive discussions need to be held about how democracy would work.

Some analysts say Beijing is stalling on democratic reforms because the Communist leadership fears that it would lose control of Hong Kong's government -- which under a democracy would care more about answering to the public.

Tsang said he shares the protesters' goals.

"Both the central government and this administration are actively leading this community towards universal suffrage in an orderly fashion," Tsang said at a news conference. "I am 60 years of age. I certainly want to see universal suffrage taking place in Hong Kong in my time."

Opposition lawmakers criticized Tsang's response.

"I don't think he answers the call for democracy of the 250,000 people that marched on the streets," said lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan. "We want to see concrete actions."

Opposition against the proposed changes has reinvigorated the pro-democracy movement, which slowed after Beijing rejected a quick transition to democracy last year.

Two pro-democracy marches helped trigger the territory's first leadership change since the handover in 1997. Both protests -- in 2003 and 2004 -- drew half a million people demanding the right to pick their leader and all lawmakers. Currently, only half of the legislators are directly elected, while the other half are selected by interest groups.

Several protesters marched Sunday with huge, makeshift bird cages to suggest the democratic development has been stalled.

Hong Kong's former No. 2 official, Anson Chan, who marched, has criticized Beijing for rejecting a quick transition to full democracy.

"I believe democracy to be good for Hong Kong and in good time, when the time is ripe, it would also be good for my country," she said.

K.T. Wong, a retiree, also marched and held a cardboard saying, "I'm 75. I want popular elections. Never give up."
 

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NEW YORK TIMES


Hong Kong Protesters Want Election Timetable


By KEITH BRADSHER
Published: December 5, 2005

HONG KONG, Dec. 4 - A huge throng of pro-democracy protesters poured through the skyscraper canyons of Hong Kong on Sunday afternoon, defying warnings from senior Chinese officials who refuse to set a timetable for general elections here.

The march continued well past sunset, as more and more men, women and children of all ages emerged from side streets and subway stations to join. Organizers estimated the peaceful crowd at 250,000, while the police put it at 63,000.

At either measure, the turnout was surprising because Hong Kong's economy is booming, unemployment is falling and the city now has a popular and charismatic chief executive, Donald Tsang.

The push for full democracy poses an acute problem for China's leaders. They have declared it unlawful even to ask for a timetable for popular elections in Hong Kong, which Britain returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

At a news conference late Sunday evening, Mr. Tsang said that he wanted full democracy here in his lifetime and that he shared the aspirations of many of the protesters. But he also insisted that the legislature vote on Dec. 21 on a plan he drafted that would permit only limited political changes in the near future.

Those changes would include allowing 1,600 people to vote for the chief executive in the next elections in 2007, up from 800 now. Mr. Tsang's plan would also expand the legislature slightly in 2008, although business and professional groups would still be allowed to choose nearly half the lawmakers.

The protesters want one-person, one-vote elections for the chief executive and all members of the legislature.

Late into the night, a crowd of protesters peacefully occupied the plaza between the main government buildings here, a gated area usually closed to the public but opened to marchers in a conciliatory gesture by the government. Ronny Tong, a prominent pro-democracy lawmaker who was in the crowd, said after the protest that Mr. Tsang's legislation would fail.

The bill requires support from 40 of the legislature's 60 members, and the legislature's 25 pro-democracy members will all vote against it, Mr. Tong said.

"We feel that we have a new mandate from the people of Hong Kong," he added.

Mr. Tsang said that he would consider ways to change his proposal but noted that he had limited scope for doing so. China's leaders and Hong Kong tycoons have opposed greater democracy here, fearing that it could set a precedent for challenges to one-party rule on the mainland and for higher taxes and greater government spending in Hong Kong itself.

Martin Lee, the founding chairman of the Democratic Party here, said Sunday evening that the day's march had only been about democracy in Hong Kong itself. But Lee Wing-tat, the party's current chairman, acknowledged last month that if officials in Beijing accepted a timetable for democracy here, it would be much harder to turn down similar demands that might surface later in Shanghai and other large Chinese cities.

Hong Kong's population has grown tenfold since the end of World War II, mainly through immigration from the mainland; the opening of the border in recent years has resulted in broad awareness on the mainland of events in Hong Kong.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
China denies report saying it may give Hong Kong full democracy by 2017
By HELEN LUK
7 December 2005

HONG KONG (AP) - China on Wednesday denied a report indicating it was considering the possibility of full democracy in Hong Kong by 2017, following a mass protest over the weekend demanding speedy political reforms.

China's liaison office in Hong Kong said "any reports saying the Chinese government has decided a democratic timetable are groundless," the official Xinhua News Agency quoted a spokesman as saying. It did not give his name.

The comment came after the South China Morning Post newspaper reported Wednesday that an unidentified Chinese leader would deliver a vaguely worded statement hinting at the possibility of introducing full democracy to Hong Kong by 2017.

The report said no exact date would be given, quoting an unidentified source close to Beijing.

Tension intensified between the Hong Kong government and the political opposition over the pace of democratization following a protest Sunday attended by tens of thousands of marchers demanding the right to elect their leader and legislature as promised as a goal in the constitution.

The government said it is determined to push through a much-criticized democratic reform package in the legislature on Dec. 21. But pro-democracy lawmakers have threatened to veto the proposal if the government does not give a timetable for when Hong Kong will have universal suffrage.

The proposed changes call for the 800-member committee that picks Hong Kong's leader to double in size and an expansion of the 60-member legislature.

Despite China's denial of the Post's report, two pro-democracy lawmakers said Wednesday that people close to Beijing have contacted them to gauge their acceptance of a proposal to implement full democracy in Hong Kong by 2017.

James To of the Democratic Party, the territory's biggest opposition, said a contact close to the Chinese leadership called him a day after the rally.

That person asked how he would react if Beijing proposes "letting Hong Kong have democracy as early as 2012 if conditions are mature and not later than 2017," To said in a telephone interview.

Another pro-democracy lawmaker Ronny Tong also confirmed that a source close to Beijing called him more than a week before the march, asking about the possibility of the central government proposing to give Hong Kong democracy by 2017.

"I told the person that this would not be acceptable," Tong said by phone.

The move apparently aims to resolve an intensifying dispute between Hong Kong's government and the pro-democracy camp over constitutional reforms in this former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Hong Kong has remained partially democratic since the hand-over. Ordinary citizens have no say in picking their political leader and directly elect only half of the 60-member legislature. The other half is chosen by interest groups.

Many have been clamoring for universal voting rights, despite a ruling from Beijing last year to rule out quick democratic reforms.

Some analysts say Beijing is stalling on democratic reforms because the Communist leadership fears that it would lose control of Hong Kong and that growing demands for democracy would spread to mainland China, threatening its rule.
 

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I surprised there's such a strong emphasis on democracy right now. After seeing the blundering of the Canadian politcal process, I've lost quite a bit of faith in democracy. It's embarrasing how the politcal process adds to the bureaucracy, and in effect weaken the efficiency of government. I'm sick of broken promises, half-hearted responses and electioneering.

As long as HK can maintain low taxation policies, zero corruption (ICAC), economic prosperity, proper fiscal management (like not wasting money on another Disneyland), rule of law, and independence from Beijing, HK would be effective with or without democracy.
 

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rt_0891 said:
As long as HK can maintain low taxation policies, zero corruption (ICAC), economic prosperity, proper fiscal management (like not wasting money on another Disneyland), rule of law, and independence from Beijing, HK would be effective with or without democracy.
That really sometimes got me confused, democracy VS. economy.

Anyway, no Sales Tax pls!
 

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HKT said:
That really sometimes got me confused, democracy VS. economy.
I don't necessary think they're opposing tradeoffs, but nonetheless it is possible to have economic prosperity without democracy and vice versa.

The style of government is not the primary problem, it's the size. City states function better because it's essentially a jurisdiction only run by one level of government, instead of the multi-layer bureaucratic hierarchies we have in countries elsewhere.
 

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rt_0891 said:
I don't necessary think they're opposing tradeoffs, but nonetheless it is possible to have economic prosperity without democracy and vice versa.
I agree with this point. For the models in East Asia shown that it is better for having the economic growth before the democracy come. HK, Taiwan, South Korea and China are among them. Singapore have democracy on election in 1950s but then in a dictatorship style in ruling, nevertheless, the economic still grows by Lee Kwan Yew's mind of opening its market.



rt_0891 said:
The style of government is not the primary problem, it's the size.
It's actually a problem!!! If a dictatorship leader does not have a mind that strengthen their country's economic policy and just simply printing money, with no hearing from its people, the country will collapse. Just look at the South American countries in 1960s-80s and you would understand.


In simplicity, it is Open-minded democracy > Open-minded dictatorship > Close-mined democracy > Close-minded dictatorship.
 

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hkth said:
It's actually a problem!!! If a dictatorship leader does not have a mind that strengthen their country's economic policy and just simply printing money, with no hearing from its people, the country will collapse. Just look at the South American countries in 1960s-80s and you would understand.

In simplicity, it is Open-minded democracy > Open-minded dictatorship > Close-mined democracy > Close-minded dictatorship.
Let's be realistic though. Hong Kongers are highly demanding individuals, and if the government fails to stabilize the economy (e.g. Tung Chee Wa), Hong Kongers will raise hell and fire to get him out of office. PRC also has to save face, and if HK & 1 country, 2 systems fails, the PRC has a lot to lose (especially in regards to the Taiwan situation).

Understandably, democracy is preferable (if it doesn't end up bogging down the bureaucratic process), but given today's political climate in the Mainland, asking for democracy is still a bit idealistic.

Finally, HK is on sound financial footing, has strong legal institutions, low corruption, a populace that embraces free-entreprise, low taxation, minimal regulations & private-public parternships. According to my own calculations, the HK SAR government would really have be imcompetent imbeciles if this economy ever falters like that of South America.

The government indeed listens to business interests, and knowing business they'll definitely prefer a healthy economy over a dead one.
 

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Unfortunately, Hong Kong's voice is extremely troublesome for Beijing because in this small world and with Hong Kong's ever-increasing influence and popularity in the world, people in the mainland can easily hear about events going on in HK no matter how strictly the PRC controls its media.

In a way, HK's actions could lead to instability on the mainland as people begin to demand more from the government. Protests on the mainland have had violent tendencies due to the mob mentality and the belief of "fight for what you want" that rises from poverty. This is why every protest in HK puts Beijing on its toes, and why Beijing would like to see HK quiet down for the sake of the mainland's political development. In blunt terms, the CCP doesn't want to lose its control of power, but in China's current state, the CCP is all there is holding the nation together. Open up the government to direct elections and chaos would ensue as officials and gangs bribe, steal and kill to get votes.

While this is understandable, there still needs to be some practical solution to satisfy HK's need for political freedom. Hong Kong is very loyal to China and people would wave Chinese flags any day. Sovereignty over Hong Kong is not an issue here.
 

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外交部斥歐洲議會干預港事

北京16日消息:外交部發言人秦剛16日在此間表示,中國堅決反對外國對香港特區事務妄加評論、粗暴干預。

秦剛是就歐洲議會通過支持香港普選決議答記者問時做上述表示的。他說,香港事務是中國內政。中國政府一貫高度重視並積極支持香港特區按照基本法的規定,根據香港的實際情況,循序漸進地發展民主。

秦剛表示,中國中央政府的這一立場不會改變,香港特區政府亦為此不懈努力。


now European Parliament is involved..arhahahahah,arhahahahahha.
 
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