HONG KONG�Hong Kong�s Democratic Party has called on the territory�s embattled Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa to join an open debate in the legislature on the timing of democratic reforms, after China�s surprise bid last week to assert control over Hong Kong�s mini-constitution, RFA�s Mandarin service reports.

The party also called on other pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong to get together for a strategy meeting following last week�s ruling by the Standing Committee of the National People�s Congress (NPC) that Beijing alone may give the nod to changes to Hong Kong electoral laws. The move halted democrats� hopes for full democracy by 2007, when the next chief executive must be chosen.

Up to 15,000 pro-democracy protesters took to the streets Sunday in a rally against the ruling. Wearing black armbands to signify the death of democracy, they chanted anti-China slogans and carried effigies parodying Tung.

Beijing�s allies reacted angrily Monday to the rally, which prompted censors to pull the plug on news broadcasts by CNN inside China, calling it a show �stirred up by troublemakers� who were threatening Hong Kong�s stability.

�The protesters oppose for the sake of opposition,�� said Ma Lik, a Hong Kong delegate to the NPC. �They should take part in active discussions on Hong Kong�s political reforms instead of staging shows that divide society and harm investors� confidence in the economy,�� said Ma, who also chairs the territory�s top pro-Beijing party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong.

The Beijing-backed Wen Wei Po newspaper said in an editorial Monday that the turnout for the march was lower than organizers had predicted, showing that public enthusiasm for the issue was on the wane.

�This shows that more and more residents are tired of and have abandoned the dispute and wish for rationality and harmony in society,� the paper said. �We must be especially vigilant against a tiny minority of people who are stirring up trouble to achieve their political objectives,� it said.

The popular Apple Daily called on the Hong Kong government and Chinese authorities to heed the message of the demonstrators, however. �Larger turnout than expected shows demand for democracy and strong opposition to interpretation of Basic Law�20,000 take to the streets,� ran its front-page banner headline.

Both the local and central authorities �should earnestly and respectfully listen to such demands and take measures to let the Hong Kong people practise comprehensive democracy as soon as possible, and not set up barriers to comprehensive general elections�, the paper said in an editorial.

Hong Kong political activist Leung Kwok-hung said that ordinary people joined the march because they felt Beijing�s move had compromised the territory�s right to govern its own affairs, promised in the Basic Law under the �one country, two systems� pledge.

�This problem is not the result of Hong Kong people looking for trouble with Beijing, it was caused by Beijing�s own actions,� Leung, a member of the April 5th Action group, told RFA.

�Interpretation is something which should be carried out by Hong Kong�s own judicial system. Now Beijing has encroached on the high degree of autonomy it promised Hong Kong.�

A government taskforce charged with looking into electoral reform will publish a second report into its findings later this week. The first report established that consensus for change existed, and this week�s announcement is expected to discuss what sort of changes had been suggested.

Given Beijing�s intervention, a move to full and direct elections now looks unlikely for the 2006 Legislative Council elections and the 2007 change of Chief Executive, the earliest dates that direct and universal suffrage was provided for in the Basic Law. #####


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.