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China Pushes Hong Kong to Approve Controversial Anti-Subversion Bill - 2003-07-06


China's government says Hong Kong should pass the controversial anti-subversion bill later this week, as scheduled. But organizers of last week's massive street protest against the measure say they want to stop or at least stall the legislation. China's official news agency quoted on Sunday an unnamed spokesman for China's legislative body, saying enacting anti-subversion legislation is a "solemn responsibility of the Hong Kong people."

The spokesman urges Hong Kong to complete the "legislative process on schedule" - in other words, to pass the law as planned on July 9.

Opponents of the measure are urging the government to drop the legislation or at least postpone it.

It was Beijing's first official comments on the proposed anti-subversion laws since 500,000 Hong Kong people marched in protest on July 1. China's state-owned media did not report on the protests.

Many people fear the anti-subversion law seriously threatens the freedom and autonomy this former British colony has enjoyed since it returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

Leung Kar Kit, the former head of Hong Kong's bar association, warns that many are against the government as well as the law.

Mr. Leung warned the government not to underestimate public opposition to the law.

That opposition is fueled by a wider public discontent over Mr. Tung's government, which many critics say has lost its legitimacy.

On Saturday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa responded to last week's massive show of discontent by promising to delete some of the law's most controversial provisions.

But Mr. Tung has so far not given in to demands that the proposed laws be delayed or dropped. Opponents accuse Mr. Tung of trying to force the law through despite the reservations of the public.

On Sunday, pro-democracy legislators led about 50 people in a protest march to Hong Kong's government headquarters. They said Mr. Tung's amendments do not go far enough and come too late.

Organizers of last week's mass protest say tens of thousands of people are preparing to surround the legislative council building this coming Wednesday, when a vote is scheduled on the laws.

Soaring unemployment and plunging property values, along with accusations the government mishandled the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, have fanned the flames of public anger.

Bishop Joseph Zen, who leads Hong Kong's Roman Catholic diocese, is among the community leaders expressing fear that next week's protest may not be as peaceful as last week's.

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