12/28/2005, 00.00
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Hu Jintao calls on Hong Kong to pull together on reform

Mr Hu stopped short of referring to the voting down of the electoral reform. Beijing would not shut the door on communication with the democrats.

Beijing (AsiaNews/SCMP) – President Hu Jintao yesterday called upon people from all sectors in Hong Kong to forge consensus and create the conditions for a democratic system. Speaking at a meeting with Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, Mr Hu also expressed satisfaction with the chief executive. His comments came amid indications the door remained opened for communication between Beijing and the pro-democracy camp.

Mr Hu said it had been a "consistent policy" of the central government to support Hong Kong's democratic development in accordance with the Basic Law and the practical situation of the city. "But like other countries and areas that have experienced a gradual historical process of democratic development, Hong Kong's democratic development must also be promoted in a steady, solid and gradual manner," Mr Hu was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

"As long as people from all sectors of Hong Kong can attach importance to the city's overall interest and long-term prosperity, look into the subject in a rational and pragmatic manner, forge consensus from a wide spectrum and actively create the conditions, Hong Kong's democratic system will certainly be able to move ahead gradually."

Mr Hu stopped short of referring to the voting down of the electoral reform proposal by 24 democrats last Wednesday but voiced support for the failed package. "[The package] is in line with the Basic Law and the relevant decisions by the National People's Congress Standing Committee. It has received widespread support from the public and is a proposal which has further promoted democracy."

The president's remarks were seen as adding weight to comments by officials and analysts that Beijing would not shut the door on communication with the democrats, despite Mr Tsang's prediction of an "out of the ordinary" response. Mr Hu also said he was satisfied with the performance of Mr Tsang and his government, saying they had worked hard to implement strong governance for the people.

In the one-hour meeting, Mr Tsang reported on the fate of the constitutional reform proposal, the city's economic situation and improving unemployment rate. Mr Tsang said he believed the central government would continue its support of Hong Kong, but communication between the democrats and Beijing would require effort. "I will do my very best to be the middleman to ensure there will be continuous contact but this requires the efforts of not one party or myself, but everybody."

In Hong Kong, central government liaison office deputy director Li Gang reiterated Beijing's willingness to continue dialogue with people from all sectors. "The veto [of the reforms] is regrettable, but I think the communication between the central people's government and all sectors of Hong Kong will continue," he said. Democratic Party vice-chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan welcomed Mr Hu's remarks, saying they left room for the party's continued communication with Beijing.

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