Hong Kong, which returned to China in 1997, is bracing for a wave
of protests after Beijing on Sunday ruled out fully democratic
elections for the city's leader in 2017, sparking a political
showdown with democrats.
"Hong Kong is our home, we have to work together," first Chief
Executive Tung Chee-hwa, 77, handpicked by China, said in a speech.
"The only way out, and the only way forward, is through working
together, hand in hand, otherwise there will be no end to bitter
squabbles and the paralysis."
A half-million strong anti-government rally forced former shipping
magnate Tung to step down in 2005, nearly two years before
completing his second five-year term. He had faced criticism over
plans for an anti-subversion bill amid widespread calls for greater
Police on Monday used pepper spray to disperse activists who heckled
and jeered a senior Chinese official who flew to Hong Kong to
explain the decision by China's National People’s Congress Standing
Committee announced on Sunday.
China said in the Basic Law mini-constitution for Hong Kong that
universal suffrage was an eventual aim. On Sunday, it said it would
permit a vote for Hong Kong's next chief executive, but only for a
handful of pre-screened candidates.
Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong who was in
tears during the 1997 handover ceremony, said Britain had a moral
and political obligation to ensure China respects its commitments.
"We have a huge stake in the wellbeing of Hong Kong, with a
political system in balance with its economic freedom," said Patten
in a letter to the Financial Times.
His letter came a day after Britain's parliament said it had
rejected Chinese calls to scrap an inquiry into Hong Kong's progress
China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticised the British inquiry,
saying it represented interference in China's internal politics.
"Today's Hong Kong is not the Hong Kong of 1997," the Chinese
ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, said at a daily press briefing on
"The affairs of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region are China's
domestic affairs, and we oppose outside interference in those
affairs in any form."
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Asked about a statement from the U.S. Department of State in support
of universal suffrage in Hong Kong, Qin said a stable Hong Kong
benefits the international community including the United States.
"The Hong Kong issue is related to China's sovereignty, security and
development interests," he said. "Safeguarding prosperity and
stability in Hong Kong serves the shared interests of the
Communist Party leaders in Beijing fear calls for democracy
spreading to other cities. Britain itself made no mention of
democracy for Hong Kong until the dying days of more than 150 years
of colonial rule.
Pro-democracy activist group Occupy Central has threatened to lock
down Hong Kong's financial district on an unspecified date unless
China grants full democracy.
"The decision unites every one of us. So we are more united than
before," Benny Tai, a law professor and one of Occupy Central's main
leaders, told Reuters, referring to the decision by the National
People's Congress Standing Committee.
"We must continue and demonstrate to everyone our will to continue
to Occupy Central," he said.
Hedge fund manager Edwin Chin, one of the financial sector's
prominent supporters of Occupy, urged Hong Kong people to continue
to rally for democracy.
"If people do not fight, it will get worse. Democracy in Hong Kong
is difficult, but I do not lose hope. I hope the next generation can
(make it come true)," he told Reuters.
Chin told Reuters on Tuesday that a leading business newspaper had
dropped his long-running column, branding it a "political decision".
(Additional reporting by Clare Baldwin, Dancy Zhang and Clare Jim;
Editing by Nick Macfie and Robert Birsel)
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