11/16/2004, 00.00
HONG KONG – CHINA

For the Chinese government a referendum is a threat to the nation

Democratic Party protests demanding universal suffrage. According to Bishop Zen, the referendum is no threat to Hong Kong-Beijing relationship.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Gao Siren, director of the central government's liaison office, said that a referendum on universal suffrage was a "challenge to the country's political and constitutional system".

Lawmakers from the Democratic Party are behind a push for greater democracy in the Territory; their goal is to get Beijing to agree to universal suffrage and the direct election to the post of Hong Kong Chief Executive. But the referendum they propose is not meant to be binding.

Yet, in an interview with Xinhua, Gao Siren stressed how the referendum was inconsistent with Hong Kong's Basic Law no matter its form or packaging.

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa also said that the proposed referendum was "inappropriate, inconsistent with established legal procedures, impractical and misleading to the public". He warned that a referendum could seriously undermine the 'cordial relationship' with central authorities.

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on April 26 had already dashed any hope for full democracy when it ruled our direct elections for the post of chief executive and universal suffrage for the Territory's Legislative Council in 2007 and 2008.

A referendum "will not help promote [. . .] democracy in Hong Kong," Mr Tung said, for it "departs from the Basic Law and the [Standing Committee's] decision in dealing with the electoral methods in 2007 and 2008."

The Chinese Catholic Church also weighed into the controversy in favour of the referendum. Some days ago, Mgr Joseph Zen, Bishop of Hong Kong, expressed his support for the measure to gauge public opinion on the issue of universal suffrage. According to the top prelate, finding out what people think "would not undermine the relationship between China and Hong Kong".

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