Accessibility links

US Reaffirms Stance on Hong Kong - 2004-03-29

The United States has again said it supports wider democracy in Hong Kong, where a wide-ranging debate is underway about allowing direct elections. Beijing says it has the right to decide.

The United States on Monday reiterated hopes that Hong Kong would move swiftly toward wider democracy and that China would allow direct and universal elections for the city's next leader.

Public dissatisfaction with the current Beijing backed administration has helped fuel demands for a democratically elected leader and better representation in Hong Kong's legislature.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong said the United States supports electoral reform and direct elections.

On Friday, Hong Kong's Chief Executive, Tung Chee-Hwa, announced that China's top lawmaking body, the National People's Congress, will interpret Hong Kong's constitutional law on choosing a new leader and legislature.

The U.S. consulate general, James Keith, met with Hong Kong leaders Monday, and later told reporters that advancing democracy would be a matter of political will. "If the Hong Kong government is of a mind to fulfill the people's aspirations, in terms of advancing democratization, and if also the central people's government is prepared to fulfill those aspirations then as far as I'm concerned that's a matter of political will and it won't be an obstacle in terms of constitutional law," he says.

Hong Kong's second in command, Donald Tsang, says he will fly to Beijing Tuesday to present public opinions gathered by the local government in recent months on constitutional reform.

Pro-democracy advocates and some legal experts in Hong Kong described the announcement that China's legislature would interpret Hong Kong's so-called mini-constitution as a set back for autonomy.

Hong Kong's separate government, legal and economic system is guaranteed under the policy known as one country two systems. The policy went into effect in 1997 when Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty after 150 years of British colonial rule.

U.S. consulate spokeswoman, Susan Stevenson, says the United States would oppose any change to this policy. "We would be concerned by any measure that would seem to violate this formula, which has worked fairly well since the handover," she says.

Ms. Stevenson added that the U.S. government would like to see direct elections for the next chief executive by 2007 - the year Hong Kong's constitution opens the door to change in the current system.

The current leader was chosen by a select committee of eight hundred Hong Kong people, many with business and philosophical ties to China's communist party.