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Friday, July 3, 1998 Published at 07:01 GMT 08:01 UK

Clinton's farewell plea for democracy

President Clinton: "we must work together"

On the final day of his visit to China, President Bill Clinton has issued a call for greater democracy in the countries of Asia.

The president also met one of Hong Kong's prominent pro-democracy politicians, Martin Lee, who is pressing for greater political reform.

The issue of human rights in China has been a recurring theme throughout the trip - which was aimed at furthering what the two countries call a new strategic partnership between them.

Nevertheless, both Chinese and American officials have expressed satisfaction with the visit - one of the most controversial overseas tours of his presidency, and the longest to a single country.

Speaking in Hong Kong on the final day of his nine day tour of China, Mr Clinton said democracy was the path to greater stability and wealth, and was not, as some governments feared, a potential danger.

The BBC's Jill McGivering says the president made an impassioned plea for greater democracy
Mr Clinton praised the people of Indonesia, saying their longing for democratic, responsive government had succeeded in altering their political future.

Mr Clinton said the record turn-out in Hong Kong's elections last May had been a mandate for a faster pace of democracy, and he looked forward to the day when everyone in Hong Kong had full democratic rights.

[ image: Pro-democracy politician Martin Lee met Mr Clinton]
Pro-democracy politician Martin Lee met Mr Clinton
Mr Lee thanked Clinton for coming to China and addressing the issues of human rights and democracy.

According to Mr Clinton's national security adviser, Sandy Berger, Mr Lee said Hong Kong's first year under Chinese rule had gone well but that the pace of democratic reforms should be accelerated.

Earlier, at a dinner hosted by the Hong Kong Chief Executive, Tung Chee-hwa, Mr Clinton told business leaders that the United States was prepared to do whatever it could to end the financial crisis in Asia.

BBC correspondent Richard Lister talks about the ambivalent reactions in the US to Bill Clinton's efforts in China
Mr Clinton said: "The United States considers Hong Kong vital not only to the future of China and Asia but to the United States and the world as well. Our ties must grow stronger and they will.

"This present financial crisis too will pass if we work together with discipline and vision to lift the fortunes of our neighbours."

[ image: Bill Clinton with Hong Kong's Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa]
Bill Clinton with Hong Kong's Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa
President Clinton said he was keen to see China join the World Trade Organisation, but stressed the terms of entry must be acceptable to the international community.

He said his meetings with Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Chinese students had convinced him that it was possible to build a "more stable, more prosperous and free" future.

He said the trip had been a "remarkably successful attempt to continue our partnership for the future."

Mr Clinton became the first US president to visit Hong Kong when he arrived there on Thursday.

His party were also the first foreigners to touch down at Hong Kong's new Chek Lap Kok airport, just hours after it was officially opened by Chinese president Jiang Zemin.

The airport is the largest civil engineering project in the world, and took six years to build. Its construction necessitated the levelling and enlargement of an island off the Hong Kong coast.

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