12/29/2007, 00.00
CHINA – HONG KONG
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Beijing delays democracy in Hong Kong: “maybe” in 2017

The National People’s Assembly postpones the possibility of elections to the Head of the Executive until 2017 and a parliamentary vote until 2020. Card Zen, 2012 was already “a delayed timetable”. Protest marches to be held today.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Democratic leaders have joined with the Cardinal of Hong Kong in expressing their grave disapproval: Beijing has excluded the possibility of full democracy for the territory by 2012,  which “may be allowed” to choose the Chief of the Executive by 2017 and to have universal suffrage by 2020, 30 years on from the first demands put forward by the population in 1988.

The Standing Committee of China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), which in 2004 took declared itself responsible for all political reform in the territory, today decreed rgar rge 2012 elections “will not take place using the method of universal suffrage”;  that the election of the fifth Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in the year 2017 “may be implemented by the method of universal suffrage”; that after the Chief Executive is selected by universal suffrage, the election of the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region “may be implemented by the method of electing all the members by universal suffrage”.

The NPC’s decision reaffirms the  “suggestions” contained n a report on political reform presented to them earlier this week by current governor of Hong Kong, Donald Tsang, which said a majority in Hong Kong wanted direct elections by 2012, though a delay until 2017 stood a "better chance of being accepted” [by Beijing and the businesses linked to Beijing].

The chief executive is currently picked by an 800-seat election committee stacked in Beijing's favour, and only half of the city's 60-member legislature are directly elected with the others picked by various business and interest groups.

This decision by Beijing – foreseen and forewarned – has been greeted with grave disapproval by democratic leaders in the territory.  Civic Party member Audrey Eu, notes that Beijing has promised nothing: “to say you may have universal suffrage doesn't mean it's going to happen ... there's no guarantee that it won't be vetoed again”.

Democratic groups have called protest marches for later today.

Meanwhile Card. Joseph Zen, bishop of Hong Kong, cwas quoted by Apple Daily as having said that the poeple have long been demanding universal suffrage by 2007 (for the chief executive).  The date 2012 “is already a delay in the timetable”.

Meanwhile, the Diocesan Justice and Peace Committee said that in view of the present political atmosphere, it was not likely that Beijing would allow Hong Kong people to have direct elections in 2012. The Commission said in the Catholic Weekly dated December 30 that Hong Kong people started to urge for direct election in 1988, but till now they could not enjoy it, and for now Hong Kong people need to wait for another 10 years (from 2007 to 2017), the writer asked “why should we wait for another 10 years? From 1988 to 2017, we need to wait for 30 years, it is almost half of a lifetime!”.

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