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Beijing: No Direct Elections for Hong Kong - 2004-04-26


Beijing's highest lawmaking body - the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress has voted against allowing direct elections for Hong Kong's next leader.

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Tung Chee-Hwa says China's decision against direct elections is in keeping with Hong Kong's goal of maintaining stability and economic prosperity. Mr. Tung says adhering to the decision is necessary to maintain a sound relationship with mainland China.

Hong Kong - a former British colony that reverted to Chinese rule in 1997, is guaranteed a high degree of autonomy under its constitution - the Basic Law. The Basic Law also calls for gradually moving toward democracy after 2007.

Mr. Tung says full democracy remains the government's goal, but gave no timetable.

On Monday, Beijing's highest lawmaking body - the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress - voted against allowing direct elections for Hong Kong's next leader in 2007.

The committee also said the city's legislature could not be fully elected in 2008. The committee, however, said some changes to the electoral system could be made but did not say what they might be.

The news damps widespread hopes among residents here for the right to elect a successor to the unpopular Mr. Tung.

Calls for Mr. Tung's removal and for greater democracy have increased since last July, after half a million people protested against security legislation many Hong Kong residents felt would curtail civil liberties.

While the administration withdrew the laws, frustration remains over Hong Kong's weak economy and the perception that last year's outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome was mishandled.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Fred Li on Monday said China is now dictating the territory's policy.

Other opposition politicians accuse the NPC of contravening the one country, two systems policy, which describes Hong Kong's relationship with Beijing.

Mr. Tung was handpicked by Beijing and approved by a committee of 800 people - almost all of whom have strong ties to China.

This year, half of the 60 members of the city's legislature will be directly elected. The rest are selected from special interest or business groups.

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