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2 Hong Kong Lawmakers Barred from China Mainland - 2004-04-22

China has barred two Hong Kong opposition lawmakers from entering the mainland - where a meeting on the future of Hong Kong political reforms is being held. The incident angered pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong at a time when debate is raging over the future of the territory's democracy.

James To and Cyd Ho, together with three other opposition lawmakers, traveled to the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen hoping to meet with a top Chinese lawmaker, Qiao Xiaoyang. Mr. Qiao is meeting with pro-China Hong Kong representatives, who so far favor Beijing's approach to Hong Kong's political reform.

But Mr. Qiao refused to talk to the lawmakers and instead sent his deputy, Li Fei, to face them. The lawmakers handed Mr. Li a letter explaining their views.

Hong Kong democratic legislator Frederick Fung met with Mr. Li. Mr. Fung says he and his colleagues consider it a breakthrough that they were able to meet with a Beijing official, even if it was not Mr. Qiao.

Hong Kong's democrats are demanding that residents be able to choose their own leader and lawmakers by 2007.

Hong Kong's leader, Tung Chee-Hwa, submitted a proposal for electoral change to Beijing several days ago, but China has said it will have the final say on political reforms.

Mr. Qiao says there are different points of view about the issue. Mr. Qiao says some people want China to take a definite stance, but some want Hong Kong people to decide.

Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997. Under a principle known as "one-country, two systems," Hong Kong residents enjoy greater freedom and civil liberties than people living in mainland China.