Sunday, December 04, 2005

Thousands march for HK democracy

BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | Thousands march for HK democracy: "Tens of thousands of people have taken part in a march in Hong Kong to demand a fully democratic political system.

Trade unions, activists and civic groups joined ordinary citizens, some carrying banners denouncing China.

They snaked round streets lined with sky-scrapers towards government offices chanting 'now or never' and 'do you want a clown or a chief executive?'.

Campaigners say they want the Chinese autonomous territory's next leader to be elected by universal suffrage.

In response to mass protests in 2003 and 2004, Beijing made some concessions, namely offering to enlarge the 800-strong election committee charged with selecting a new leader.

However, opposition leaders say the proposals do not go far enough."

Clear message

The BBC's Chris Hogg in Hong Kong said the march appeared to be much larger than many had predicted, with many ordinary citizens and their families taking part.

"I just feel there are moments in one's life when you have to stand up and be counted," said Anson Chan, Hong Kong's former deputy leader and a first-time marcher.

Palu Cheung, 42, who brought his four-year-old daughter, said: "I want my daughter to know that I do this for her and for myself," he told Associated Press. "I think we have the quality to select our own government."

Our correspondent says the rally organisers hope a large turnout will send a clear message to Beijing that they want direct leadership elections and a fully-elected parliament.

"This is make-or-break time," Martin Lee, the veteran leader of the pro-democracy movement told Agence France Presse.

"The more people that come on the march, the more the government will have to do something about this," he said.

Timetable for change

The chief executive is currently chosen by a committee made up of about 800 Hong Kong residents selected by Beijing.

But the island's constitutional document, or Basic Law, contains provisions for ultimately electing the leader by universal suffrage.

However, China has refused implement such reforms to allow the people of Hong Kong to elect their next leader in two years time.

Pro-democracy campaigners say if that remains the case, they should be given a timetable and told when they will be allowed to vote for who rules them.

One lawmaker, Lee Cheuk Yan, said people "are very much disappointed" over the long wait.

In demonstrations in 2003 and 2004, 500,000 people have taken to the streets to protest against the policies of Hong Kong's government.
The rallies shook the administration and its political masters in Beijing. Some say they cost Hong Kong's former leader, Tung Chee-hwa, his job.

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