Hong Kong Democrat Alleges Smear Campaign


2004-08-25
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Hong Kong — ; A Hong Kong lawmaker said Wednesday that scandals surrounding fellow democratic politicians were part of a smear campaign to tarnish his party's image before key elections.

Legislator Law Chi-kwong said the jailing of a fellow Democratic Party member in China for allegedly hiring a prostitute, and recent claims that another one misused public funds, were part of a conspiracy.

"The whole thing certainly seems to look like an organised smear campaign against us," Law told AFP. He would not be drawn on who could be behind the campaign.

Both men involved in scandals are candidates in September 12 legislative elections, in which the Democratic Party -- a thorn in the side of Hong Kong's ultimate rulers in Beijing -- is expected to make big gains.

Junior member Alex Ho is languishing in a detention centre in China's neighbouring Guangdong province after being arrested for allegedly hiring a prostitute while on a business trip to Dongguan.

And senior activist James To is in the soup after it was claimed that a company in which he holds shares is charging the party excessive rent for an office. The rent money is paid out of the party's government grant.

To's incident came to light when a member of the public tipped off a local newspaper but Law suspects the informant had inside information.

"For someone to collect detailed information like this, it is not something that an ordinary person can do," Law said. "It seems to be such a coincidence that two cases arise at around the same time...I expect more cases like that to arise as the election is only two weeks away," he added.

Democrats are expected to sweep the polls for half of Hong Kong's 60-member legislature in the former British colony, which returned to China in 1997.

Some 500,000 people marched in Hong Kong last July 1 to demand more democracy. The rest of the lawmakers are chosen through so-called functional constituencies and tend to go to pro-business and pro-Beijing candidates. shw/mmc/sm

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