12/07/2007, 00.00
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Students protest, blow whistle at Beijing’s friend Tung Chee-hwa

Hong Kong’ Chinese University honours former chief executive with an award but students and pro-democracy activists protest. In 2003 half million people took to the streets. Protests forced him to resign in 2005 for failing to implement full universal suffrage and trying to give Beijing greater leeway in the territory’s internal affairs.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Students from the Chinese University of Hong Kong strongly protested against the award of an honorary degree to former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa. During yesterday’s award ceremony, some 30 student representing the Student Union carried out a protest carrying red flags, shouting "the shame of Chinese University", blowing whistles and repeatedly trying to force their way onto the stage, blocked only by security guards. The protest even interrupted Tung when he tried to express his thanks.

“We think the University presented the degree to Mr Tung due to political concerns as he didn’t contribute much to the development of Hong Kong during his term of office,” a spokesman from the Student Union said to the South China Morning Post.

The protesters later handed a petition letter to Professor Lawrence Lau, Vice-Chancellor of CUHK, urging him to explain to the public the reasons behind awarding the degree “a Doctor of Law” to Mr Tung.

By contrast during the ceremony, Professor Laurence Wong Kwok-pun praised Mr Tung as a true leader who led Hong Kong in difficult times, introduced measures and reforms to improve people’s livelihoods and successfully implement the policy of “one country, two systems” under the Basic Law. The university, he explained, was honouring Mr Tung for his “historic mission of leading the administration,” maintaining Hong Kong’s “legal and judicial systems” and safeguarding its “freedom and lifestyle” as it underwent the transition from being a British Crown colony to a self-governing Chinese region.

Protesters would have none of that. They opposed the award citing his attempt to increase police powers, and his requests for Beijing to reinterpret the Basic Law interfering in the territory’s internal affairs.

Protesters were also highly critical of his handling of Hong Kong’s economy during his tenure.

LegCo member Leung Kwok-hung joined the students outside the hall where the ceremony took place to protest. He said that Tung had “introduced the proposals to implement Article 23, asked the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to reinterpret the Basic Law, had not implemented universal suffrage and failed to handle the 2003 outbreak properly.”

Under Article 23 of the Basic Law Hong Kong is required to enact laws on its own to prohibit acts like treason, secession and sedition against the central government in Beijing.

In 2002 and then in 2003 Mr Tung tried to introduce legislation to implement the article. His proposed legislation gave much power to the police at the expense of individual rights.

The public outcry that followed resulted in massive demonstrations; an estimated half million took to the streets on 1 July 2003. Eventually the government shelved the bill.

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