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Joseph Zen To Raise Article 23 Bill With Vatican After Vote Delayed

WASHINGTON, July 7, 2003--Hong Kong's influential Catholic Bishop Joseph Zen says Hong Kong could see more massive protests opposing a highly controversial anti-subversion bill favored by the government in Beijing, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports. A half-million Hong Kong residents demonstrated against the legislation in the largest such protest since 1989.

"I won�t exclude the possibility of using another mass demonstration, but I hope we don�t need it anymore... I hope people don�t have to take to the streets all the time to voice their views," Zen told RFA's Cantonese service in an interview broadcast the day after he addressed a crowd of 20,000 demonstrators in a Hong Kong park.

At the Sunday protest, Zen called on the Hong Kong and Chinese authorities to be more responsive to popular opinion. "Why don't you give us a chance?" he said. "We will prove to the world that Hong Kong people can make Hong Kong work, and even better, not be a burden to its motherland, and make all Chinese people proud of Hong Kong."

Earlier, Zen told RFA that the entire consultation process over the proposed legislation was "very ugly". "That�s the reason people are angry," he said. "The crucial problem is with the attitude. I hope the government will acknowledge that its attitude is wrong. When the attitude is wrong, there can be no dialogue." Zen, whose Chinese name is Chen Rijun, said he planned to discuss the anti-subversion bill at the Vatican when he visits there this week.

Some 500,000 people staged a demonstration July 1 to oppose the bill--the largest such demonstration in China since 1989. Earlier Monday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa said the bill outlawing subversion, sedition, treason and other crimes against the state wouldn't be put forward on Wednesday for a vote.

One of the likely reasons for the delay is that the outcry against the government's handling of the bill has spread across political boundaries. Last week, pro-Beijing Liberal Party legislator James Tien resigned from Tung's cabinet in order to vote against the bill.

Meanwhile, former Liberal Party chairman Allen Lee said Beijing had nothing to fear from the democratic aspirations of Hong Kong people. "We love Hong Kong and want Hong Kong people to be its masters, to select their own leader. Hong Kong will always be part of China. Somebody said if you want democracy then means you don't love Hong Kong. They are wrong."

Zen, who has repeatedly criticized the bill and urged Hong Kong residents to protest against it, said the Hong Kong government "made a grave mistake by trying to enact a new national security bill without direct elections by Hong Kong residents." An elite committee in Beijing selects the Hong Kong leader, and only 24 or 60 legislators were chosen by popular vote in 2000.

Critics say the bill, required under Article 23 of Hong Kong's mini-constitution since China resumed control of the territory in 1997, could lead to a major crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly.

Zen also said that talks between the Vatican and Beijing aimed at designating a bishop in China had halted after the two sides failed to agree on a selection process. He also said Taiwan appeared to be an obstacle.

"It's the Pope's job to appoint a bishop--that's how the Catholic church does things," he said. "The church wants to consult with the Chinese government on the Vatican's nominee, but that doesn't mean Vatican should listen to Chinese government and let the Chinese government make the decision. Since the Chinese government won't yield, no further contact is being made between the two sides."

Beijing "is using Taiwan as an excuse not to establish formal contact with the Vatican. The Pope has made it very clear that the Vatican will abandon Taiwan in order to establish a formal relationship with China. But China wants the Vatican to give up Taiwan first. Without negotiation and agreement, how can you expect the Vatican to give up Taiwan first?"

RFA broadcasts news and information to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia. Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo, and Kham), and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content. #####

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