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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 July, 2003, 21:07 GMT 22:07 UK
HK rally for more democracy
Pro-democracy rally, Hong Kong, 13 July 2003
Democratic change is too slow for the protesters
Several thousand people joined a pro-democracy rally in central Hong Kong on Sunday - the third such gathering this month.

The protesters were demanding direct elections to choose Hong Kong's leader and all members of the Legislative Council.

Many of the protesters chanted "return power to the people" and sang songs, demanding the resignation of the Chief Executive, Tung Chee-hwa.

Officials from Beijing are believed to have held informal talks with pro-democracy MPs to try to gauge the level of public dissent, although Beijing later denied any contact had been made.

The demonstrations have been sparked by a controversial draft anti-subversion law which opponents say would allow Beijing to curb Hong Kong people's freedoms, but they have widened into a concerted anti-government campaign.

Mr Tung was forced to postpone the bill in response to the protests, but the demonstrators are calling for wider political reforms.

"No matter how much we dislike this leader, or how unpopular he and his policies are, we still can't remove him," said Law Yuk-kai, director of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor.

Sunday's rally follows a mass protest by half a million people earlier this month, and a demonstration by tens of thousands last week.

Political crisis

China has sent officials to Hong Kong to speak to local people, including pro-democracy opposition MPs.

Fred Li, a member of the opposition Democratic Party, said: "At least there is now dialogue... If even Chinese officials can have communication with the Democratic Party, why can't Mr Tung?"

Hong Kong's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, sets out the possibility of extending democracy but gives no timetable for change.

Currently, the public has no say in choosing the chief executive and was allowed to pick just 24 of the 60 legislative seats in the 2000 election.

Hong Kong's leader, Tung Chee-hwa
Many in Hong Kong see Tung as Beijing's puppet
The BBC's Francis Markus, who attended the rally in Hong Kong, says both Beijing and the Hong Kong government are hoping that the momentum is going out of the campaign.

Mr Tung has been facing an unprecedented political crisis since he was forced to back down over the anti-subversion law, our correspondent says.

That issue has been put aside for a few months until the territory's Legislative Council reconvenes after its summer recess.

Meanwhile, the leadership in Beijing is weighing up its options.

There has been much speculation that it could press Mr Tung, after a decent interval, to resign or at least sack unpopular officials.

But Chinese leaders are also likely to wonder whether that would quieten down the opposition's campaign or give it further encouragement.

The BBC's Francis Markus
"A chorus of voices demanding more democracy"

Hong Kong protests spread
10 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Analysis: China's concern at HK protests
09 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
HK delays anti-subversion bill
07 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Tung Chee-hwa: Beijing's favoured son
07 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Q&A: HK's anti-subversion law
01 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific

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