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China Refuses Entry to Hong Kong Politician - 2004-08-28


Chinese authorities have refused to let a pro-democracy politician from Hong Kong visit Shanghai. The incident occurs just two weeks before an election that is being seen as a test of support for the city's democracy movement.

Democratic Party member Law Chi-kwong says immigration officials at the Shanghai airport Saturday afternoon told him he had to return home immediately.

At a news conference after his return to Hong Kong, Mr. Law said immigration officials told him regulations barred him from entering the country, and that it would not be beneficial to have him enter.

Mr. Law had planned to take part in a study tour for social workers from Hong Kong. He and other members of his party say the mainland's Liaison Office in Hong Kong had told him he would be allowed on the trip.

Mr. Law and other Democratic Party officials indicated there may have been a communication problem between the mainland representatives in Hong Kong and officials in Shanghai. Mr. Law said he did not want the matter to become too political.

The incident comes just two weeks before elections for the city's Legislative Council. Many analysts and local residents view the election as a test of the strength for the pro-democracy movement, and for the city's Beijing-installed chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa.

Mr. Tung is unpopular, and he and his Cabinet members have been blamed for the city's poor economic performance over the past several years.

The mainland government has been trying to build support for candidates it favors. Among other public relations efforts, it recently invited thousands of people to attend a parade at a military base in Hong Kong, and it is arranging for its Olympic champions to visit the city before the vote.

It also has toned down its usually harsh rhetoric against democracy advocates, and recently has made some conciliatory moves toward them.

However, Beijing still bars most prominent Hong Kong democracy activists from entering the mainland. The democrats are pushing for universal suffrage in the next election for the chief executive, in 2007, and in the next legislative election, in 2008.

The central government has ruled that universal suffrage will not be allowed until much later. Beijing and the Hong Kong administration say the city needs to move to full democracy cautiously to avoid instability.

Currently, the chief executive is selected by a committee made up of several hundred Beijing appointees. Only half the Legislative Council's members are directly elected. The rest are selected by professional or special interest groups.

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