07/20/2004, 00.00
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Hong Kong hopes for democracy, not for independence

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/SCMP) – According to Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, president of the Hong Kong's Legislative Council (Legco) and one of the most prominent pro-Beijing leaders, the Special Administrative Region must wait 8 years  before its Chief Executive is directly elected by the people and 16 before all LegCo members are returned by universal suffrage. According to the lawmaker the former British colony is not yet ready for full-fledged democracy. She insists that the Chief Executive should be elected only when all parties are willing to back him and are in Beijing's confidence. "I think that it will take at least 8 years before political parties are mature enough to help the Chief Executive govern. For this reason I suggest that he not be chosen by direct election before 2012." According to Ms. Fan electoral reform must be done gradually and universal suffrage implemented only in 2020.

In the meantime Hong Kong was at the centre of discussions between Chinese authorities and filmmaker and pro-democracy activist John Shum Kin-fun, back in China after 15 years. His visit to Beijing and Shanghai ended on Saturday July 17.

Speaking to government officials Shum pointed out that pro-democracy activists do not seek the former British colony's independence from China. "I told them that as far as I know none of my friends in the Democratic Party want to see Hong Kong independent."

The filmmaker said that his discussions were open and warm. "We talked just about everything . . . When I realised that for them some issues were touchy I said what I thought and moved onto the next one."

The activist, a former member of the Alliance in Support of the Democratic Patriotic Movement in China, an organisation deemed subversive by Beijing, urged the officials to re-examine the official view of the events of June 4, 1989, when hundreds of young people demanding democratic reforms were killed in Tiananmen Square, often crushed by tanks. "I shall stick to this demand and I bet that the Chinese government will do something about it when the time is ripe."

Although banned from China because of his support for the pro-democracy movement, Shum was granted an entry visa to the country and guaranteed an exit visa once his brief stay was over.

John Shum Kin-fun was a key player in Operation Yellow Bird, an underground network that helped pro-Democracy activists and dissidents involved in the Tiananmen movement flee China to escape the government's repression. However, many of those who took part in the greatest pro-Democracy movement in China's history failed to escape and were either killed, imprisoned or sent to Laogai labour camps. (ThR)

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