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Hong Kong's Democrats Meet to Review Progress Before Handover Anniversary

The leaders of Hong Kong's democratic movement have met to take stock of their progress and assess their relationship with China's Communist government, ahead of the 10th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese sovereignty. Joseph Popiolkowski reports from Hong Kong that the pro-democracy activists put out a call to action.

The call from Cardinal Joseph Zen was loud and clear: Hong Kong's leaders must promote social justice and individual rights to achieve a peaceful society.

Zen was one of several leading advocates for multi-party politics and universal suffrage who attended a seminar Saturday led by Hong Kong's Democratic Party. They met three weeks ahead of the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from British to Chinese rule.

Martin Lee, founder of Hong Kong's Democratic Party, stressed the importance of the "one country, two systems" concept in guaranteeing Hong Kong's autonomy as a Special Administrative Region (SAR). He said this structure is in danger of collapsing if Beijing continues to reinterpret it.

"What I'm afraid of is they will redefine 'one country, two systems,'" he said. "They will move the goalposts. But if that were to happen, if that were to happen, it's an admission to the whole world and to our compatriots in Taiwan that 'one country, two systems' has failed."

The speakers took issue with remarks made this week by Wu Bangguo, head of the National People's Congress, China's parliament. He appeared to place limits on Hong Kong's autonomy by saying the only freedoms Hong Kong had were those granted by Beijing.

In response, the Democratic Party circulated a statement by Graham Watson, leader of the European Parliament's Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, in which he warned China against making such "unhelpful and divisive" claims.

He said China should not upset the applecart of international opinion - a point taken up by Gloria Fung, vice president of Canada-Hong Kong Link, a community organization in Canada, where many Hong Kong people have settled.

"Instead of remaining silent about the adverse changes taking place in Hong Kong SAR, we have chosen to take a proactive approach to express our concerns and make our voices heard both within Canada as well as to the governments of Hong Kong and China," she said.

Hong Kong's democratic movement hopes to mark the July 1 anniversary of the change in sovereignty with a march to rival that of July 1, 2003. Then, half a million people protested against proposed security legislation, and for more democracy. Since then, Hong Kong has received a new chief executive, but no further progress on democratic reforms.