06/30/2006, 00.00
HONG KONG - CHINA
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Anson Chan tells China: economy is not enough, Hong Kong wants democracy

On the eve of the march for universal suffrage, Anson Chan comments about Chinese prospects for the territory: an improved economy without democratic reform. Coinciding (or competing) with the march, a parade of games will be organized by the government to celebrate the return of Hong Kong to the motherland.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Anson Chan, the territory's most renowned and respected politicians, has said the government of Hong Kong should push more to bring about universal suffrage and that democracy is not in conflict with economic development.

The ex-secretary general of the last British governor and of the first government under China is persistently urging the population of Hong Kong to participate in tomorrow's march. Meanwhile, the government is preparing a festival parade to mark the return of the territory to the motherland. Jia Qinglin, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, has travelled to the territory for the celebration. Jia will take part in the festivities and he has met many figures of Hong Kong's business world. To all, he has repeated that the solution to Hong Kong's problems lies in the economy, so the entire population should focus on this and set aside their differences.

However, Chan, speaking on local radio, stressed that the desire among the people of Hong Kong for democracy remained strong. "In the minds of Hong Kong people, economic benefits cannot replace a democratic constitution." Currently only half the parliament of the territory is elected by the people; the other half is composed of representatives of categories and people chosen by the government. The chief executive too is picked by a group of 800 representatives ultimately appointed by Beijing. For years, the people of Hong Kong have been calling for universal suffrage and the direct election of the chief executive. In 2004, China took all political reforms upon itself, betraying the principle "one nation, two systems", according to which Hong Kong should enjoy wide autonomy.

Commenting on the words of Jia Qinglin, who said "economic growth was a fundamental solution to all society's deep-set problems", Chan said: "This means the central government insists on developing the economy, but not pursing a democratic constitution." She concluded by calling on the government of Hong Kong to actively push for universal suffrage.

Two events will be held at the same time tomorrow: the first is the march for democracy, supported by Chan, organised by pro-democracy and human rights organizations and by the Catholic Church; the second is a spectacle to celebrate the ninth anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China. For the occasion, there will be displays of martial art in the Hong Kong stadium by the People's Liberation Army, Chinese mask artists and pop singers. A parade will follow, which organizers expect will draw around 40,000 people. In 2003, the march drew more than half a million people and last year, on 4 December, there were more than 150,000.

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