06/21/2007, 00.00
HONG KONG – CHINA
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Pro-universal suffrage march to go ahead on July 1

The Hong Kong legislature defeats a motion of support for the July 1 march. People will never the less take to the streets to demand universal suffrage which Beijing had pledged for 2008 but which it has so far failed to deliver.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A motion calling on members of the public to join the July 1 march to "demonstrate people's power" was defeated in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) yesterday. Pro-democracy lawmakers and citizens will still go ahead with the march, which marks the tenth anniversary of the Territory’s handover to China, focusing on the fight for universal suffrage.

Whilst expecting defeat because of the way Beijing can influence who gets elected, the LegCo debate allowed pro-democracy politicians to discuss electoral reform, free elections and universal suffrage as well as the process of selecting Hong Kong’s chief executive.

Many expressed concern over recent remarks by Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, on the limits to autonomy and power enjoyed by Hong Kong.

“Without full democracy, everything is merely empty talk,” said pro-democrat Martin Lee Chu-ming.

LegCo members who voted against the defeated motion did not object to universal suffrage per se but stated that marching is not the best way to strive for democracy.

Pro-democracy legislators were also dissatisfied with the restrictions placed by police on the July 1 rally.

“It is unacceptable to hear the police trying to restrict the number of wheelchairs participating in the rally to ten,” said lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung.

First held in 2003, the July 1 pro-democracy march is fast becoming a tradition. It was sparked by an attempt of the Territory’s government to adopt an anti-sedition bill and a desire to criticise the then Chief Executive, shipping magnate Tung Chee-hwa.

People this year will march demanding universal suffrage be implemented before 2012. When Hong Kong was reunited with the mainland in 1997 universal suffrage was supposed to be implemented by 2008, but so far Beijing has refused to set a date.

Next month a green paper on constitutional development prepared by a LegCo committee will be released. People will have three months to consult it and make their views known.

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