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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 April, 2004, 09:47 GMT 10:47 UK
China veto angers HK democrats
Hong Kong's standing committee member Tsang Hin-chi (left) shakes hands with former Chinese President Jiang Zemin (right)
A HK delegate called the ruling "mild and very clear"
Democracy campaigners in Hong Kong have reacted angrily to a ruling that gives China the final say over the territory's political future.

Pro-democracy leaders said the move undermined Hong Kong's autonomy.

They were responding to a decision by a committee of China's parliament that it has a veto over how Hong Kong's leader and legislature should be elected.

It said that while Hong Kong can change its election laws from 2007, it first must obtain approval from Beijing.

The decision rests on an interpretation of territory's mini-constitution, the Basic Law. It effectively means that China can veto any moves to give Hong Kong more democracy, such as direct elections for its chief executive.

HONG KONG RULING
Made by the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPC) or parliament
Of over 150 members of the committee, only one is from Hong Kong
The ruling accepts the possibility of political change
But its stresses that change must be approved by Beijing

Pro-democracy campaigners and legislators said the ruling was aimed at pushing back the prospect of full elections in the former British colony.

"If they can do it now, they are saying 'we will do it as we please in the future'," Democratic Party legislator Martin Lee - who had read the draft document in advance - told the Standard newspaper in Hong Kong.

"If that is so, then no freedom is safe because every clause in the Basic Law is subject to interpretation by the Standing Committee without notice."

James To, another Democratic Party legislator, called the decision "illegal" , because, he said, it amounted to an amendment of the Basic Law without following the correct procedures.

But Tsang Hin-chi, Hong Kong's only delegate on the standing committee, said the ruling should not cause alarm.

"It is very mild and very clear. People should not blindly oppose it, but put the best interests of Hong Kong people first," Mr Tsang was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

Hong Kong rallies

The BBC's Louisa Lim in Beijing says the ruling is likely to trigger further protests in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong demonstrators clash with police on Friday
Friday's protests turned violent in Hong Kong

Some 3,000 people gathered outside Hong Kong's legislature to demand greater democracy as the Beijing committee began reviewing two electoral clauses in the Basic Law on Friday.

"This pits the central government against Hong Kong in an adversarial situation," said Richard Tsoi, an organiser of past protests, commenting on Tuesday's ruling.

"It's not good for Hong Kong's overall stability and development."

Hong Kong's current Chief Executive, Tung Chee-hwa, is supporting Beijing's position.

Democracy campaigners argue that Mr Tung is undermining Hong Kong's "high degree of autonomy", as promised under a system that became known as "one-country-two-systems" when Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Louisa Lim
"Beijing is tightening its political control over the former colony"



SEE ALSO:
China meeting sparks HK protest
02 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
HK press provoked by Beijing moves
02 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
HK's debate on full democracy
06 Nov 03  |  Asia-Pacific
HK rally for more democracy
13 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Tung Chee-hwa: Beijing's favoured son
07 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific


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