10/01/2004, 00.00
CHINA - HONG KONG
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HK pro-democracy leaders invited for the first time to national holiday celebrations in Beijing

Beginning tonight national anthem will precede Honk Kong television news.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – On the eve of the October 1 national holiday, President Hu Jintao, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and other members of the Politburo close to former President Jiang Zema received a delegation of 220 Hong Kong personalities, including some pro-democracy leaders, in the Great Hall of the People for the 55th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

This was the highest level meeting held between Chinese and Hong Kong leaders. It was the first time that pro-democracy leaders were invited; among them Margaret Ng and Audrey Heu, who recently won the elections in Hong Kong.

In previous years, Margaret Ng and other pro-democracy politicians were denied entry visas to China because of their support for political reforms such as universal suffrage and their strong criticism of Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa.

For some time, Chinese authorities have been toning down the rhetoric against pro-democracy groups out of concern for what they were doing to Hong Kong's economy. They have also been trying to ease tensions conscious that such groups represent 63 per cent of the Territory's electorate. In fact, Beijing is quite aware that strains and harsh words are not helpful to China's goal of reunification with Taiwan. "One nation, two systems" is seen as a way to convince Taiwan to rejoin the motherland.

Today, one of Hong Kong's Chinese-language TV stations presented a video-clip representing diver Guo Jingjing and astronaut Yang Liwei with the national anthem played in the background in order to promote the patriotic spirit of the Territory's population. Despite its intended goal, many observers see it as a "propaganda ploy".

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