China Plans Adjustments in Hong Kong

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HONG KONG—China has said that further initiatives are needed to adjust and improve the way Hong Kong is governed, prompting fears that the mainland will become more, not less, involved in the politics of the former British colony.

The system of governance in Hong Kong needed improvement, the official English-language China Daily newspaper quoted Hong Kong and Macau Affairs think-tank chief Zhu Yucheng as saying.

“The new developments will have to take into consideration Hong Kong’s new social order, how we can do a better job under this new social order,” Zhu said.

More hand-on role

Although no specifics were given, Zhu’s remarks were seen as hinting that Beijing will adopt a more hands-on role in Hong Kong after becoming dissatisfied with the way Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa has governed Hong Kong since its July 1997 handover.

Zhu, who is head of the State Council’s Institute of Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, said China needed to better implement the “One Country, Two Systems” policy “and new directives,” the paper said, without giving further details of what the directives might be.

He said Beijing would widen and deepen its involvement in Hong Kong. “We need to go deep into all sectors of society, listen to different opinions and understand different situations,” he said.

The report came just before Hong Kong’s deeply unpopular Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa flew to Beijing for National Day celebrations, in a delegation that also included about 10 pro-democracy opposition lawmakers. The People’s Republic of China marks its 55th anniversary Friday.

Huge protests

China’s leadership was stunned by protests on July 1, 2003 in which half a million turned out in anger at their own government’s handling of proposed anti-subversion legislation.

This year has seen the resignations of three prominent and outspoken political chat-show hosts, together with attacks, personal threats, and vandalism by unknown individuals aimed at pro-democracy politicians.

And in a heavy-handed move in April, Beijing announced unilaterally that it wouldn’t allow universal suffrage for Hong Kong’s next election cycle in 2007 and 2008, stifling public consultation before it had started and sending hundreds of thousands of protesters onto the city’s streets on the anniversary of the handover to Chinese rule on July 1 this year.

Beijing has long feared the possibility that the political aspirations of Hong Kongers might spread across the border.

Tung was picked by an 800-member pro-Beijing committee and has proven highly unpopular among Hong Kong residents who view him as an ineffective puppet to Beijing and powerful local tycoons.

Ordinary citizens were allowed to pick 30 of the territory’s 60 lawmakers on Sept. 12, and they sided overwhelmingly with pro-democracy opposition figures.

The opposition claimed just 25 seats, however, under a system that gives half of the slots to special interest groups such as businessmen, doctors and lawyers who typically side with the government.


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