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Hong Kong's Pro-China Party Pushes for Popular Elections - 2003-07-18


A day after Hong Kong's leader, Tung Chee-hwa, admitted to making mistakes in his six-year tenure, the head of Hong Kong's largest pro-China party says he will advocate popular elections of Hong Kong's next chief executive.

Tsang Yok Sing, the head of Hong Kong's largest pro-China party, said he will advocate popular elections in choosing Hong Kong's next leader.

He said the government needs to decide whether or not it will meet the demands of recent protests calling for direct elections of leaders. He also says that the Hong Kong lawmaking body could use some changes.

Mr. Tsang said on Thursday that reshuffling the Cabinet would not be enough to satisfy popular demands for major changes in the government.

Hong Kong's administration was first thrown into crisis when an estimated half-million people marched on July 1 to protest a proposed security bill many say could erode freedoms. But demonstrators also called for changes allowing for more democracy.

Mr. Tsang's comments came a day after Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, in a speech to residents, admitted mistakes during his six years in office and promised to listen more closely to Hong Kong's people.

Chief Executive Tung heads to Beijing Saturday to discuss the mounting crisis over his administration, which includes the resignation this week of two of his top ministers. Political scientists are speculating that the visit will determine Beijing's future support of the leader.

Mr. Tung was hand picked by Beijing to preside over post-colonial Hong Kong in 1997, when it reverted to Chinese sovereignty. An 800-person committee made up of the city's business elite and Beijing supporters then re-elected Mr. Tung to a second five-year term in 2002.

When asked on Thursday during a press conference if he would take up the issue of democratic reform with Beijing, Mr. Tung said he would start a public dialogue first.

"I've been watching very carefully, and hear the voices of the people on this subject," he said. "I assure you, there will be plenty of time to consult the public at large."

Mr. Tung also says he will restart a period of consulting on the controversial anti-subversion laws, which set off the July 1 protest. The leader indefinitely postponed a final vote on the laws, but maintains they must be enacted.

Justice Secretary Elsie Leung said on Friday the government had responded to the wishes of the people in its handling of the anti-subversion laws.

Ms. Leung adds that it does not matter who "sells the legislation to the people." She says Hong Kong's constitution obliges the government to introduce the laws.

Hong Kong's constitution also says universal suffrage [direct elections] may be introduced after 2007.

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