12/02/2005, 00.00
HONG KONG - CHINA
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Hong Kong's people urged to turn out in force for democracy rally

Pro-democracy lawmakers say the pro-universal suffrage rally is a "unique event". Among participants is a former delegate of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/SCMP) – Hong Kong's pro-democracy lawmakers yesterday described the march for universal suffrage slated for Sunday, 4 December, as "an event which will show, now or never, the power of the people".

The democracy groups are urging people to participate en masse – the provisional turnout is estimated at around 100,000 people – and they say a large turnout could bring about change in the government proposals on electoral reform.

"We are not only fighting for democracy for the next generation; we want it now," said MP and unionist Lee Cheuk-yan. For Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, member of the group for civil rights, Article 45, the march "has a much greater significance than the July 1 demonstration". On 1 July 2003, more than half a million protesters attended a march in Hong Kong. "This time," she said, "marching for democracy will have a key effect on democratic development in both Hong Kong and the whole nation."

Chak Neun-fai, an 86-year-old journalist famous for his pro-Beijing articles and and former delegate of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, will join the march. "It will be the first time I have joined a march in my life. I really want to voice my aspirations for democracy because Beijing will turn a blind eye to you if you don't speak out," he said.

In 1967, when Hong Kong was still a British colony, Chak was condemned to three years in prison for "printing seditious articles". Today he says supporting democracy "does not threaten stability" as claimed by the Chinese authorities.

"Stability in Hong Kong would be fragile if we do not attain full democracy," he said.

The march will leave Victoria Park at 3pm (local time). The organizers have asked everyone to wear black clothing, as in the pro-democracy march on 1 July 2003. At the head there will a great birdcage symbolizing "constrained" democracy in the territory.

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