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Beckett Calls For Universal Suffrage in Hong Kong 'As Soon As Possible'


British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has ended her week-long trip to China by calling for the soonest implementation of universal suffrage in Hong Kong. VOA's Heda Bayron reports from Hong Kong.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, visiting Hong Kong 10 years after it was handed from British to Chinese rule, said she thought the process for Hong Kong was "so far, so good."

She credited the Chinese government for the relative success of the "one country, two systems" formula that allowed Hong Kong to retain its capitalist economic system and a high level of autonomy after the handover.

But Beckett also pressed for the introduction of universal suffrage in Hong Kong "as soon as possible". She told business and political leaders that democracy should be the foundation of a thriving and stable Hong Kong.

British participation in the 10th anniversary celebrations has been low key, prompting Beckett to brush aside reports that Britain has been snubbed from participating in the affair.

"There is no suggestion of the U.K. being excluded from something, in fact we are planning a series of events during the year as part of the Hong Kong government's program," Beckett said.

The right to directly elect Hong Kong's leaders is set in the Basic Law but China has so far refused to set a timetable for that to happen.

Beckett came to Hong Kong after spending six days in Beijing, where she discussed bilateral issues and climate change.

On Monday she told reporters that climate change threatens the country's economic prosperity.

"China has made substantial strides in reducing the intensity of energy usage but of course they want to, and we all need them to make still more progress," Beckett says.

China's rapid economic growth makes it hungry for energy, and it relies heavily on polluting coal-fired plants. Experts say China will soon overtake the United States as the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases.

Beckett called on Hong Kong investors in the mainland - one of the biggest group of investors there - to do their part in fighting climate change by making investments in low carbon and energy efficient technologies.

Hong Kong has been battling worsening air pollution in recent years, largely coming from power plant emissions from the southern China region.

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