01/11/2010, 00.00
HONG KONG - CHINA
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Hong Kong protesters want democracy more than high speed trains

by Annie Lam
Halt on government proposal to fund the high speed railroad between Hong Kong - Shenzhen-Guangzhou for 6 billion Euros. Demonstrations around parliament. Some Catholics call for greater democracy.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - The government's proposal to launch a high-speed railway between Hong Kong and Guangzhou (China) has met with the resistance of some local people, which instead is calling for more democracy.  

The executive of the territory has long proposed 66.9 billion HK dollars (about 5.95 billion Euros) in funding for a high-speed line between Hong Kong-Shenzhen and Guangzhou, which would connect to a network of 42 high-speed lines under construction in mainland China, to be built over the next 3 years.

The government points out that if Hong Kong does not join this development, the area will inevitably become marginalized and isolated from the economic point of view.

The proposal is being discussed in the Legco (Legislative Council, the Hong Kong parliament), in the financial section, but is hampered by various representatives of democratic parties. Several groups among the population are also opposed to the project. Among these, especially the residents of Tsoi Yuen Tsuen, a village in the New Territories that would be eliminated.  

The January 8 discussion in the Legco failed to reach a conclusion and will resume January 15 next.  

But on January 8, since the afternoon, thousands of people surrounded the Legco building in Central, demanding the suspension of the project and above all total democracy in the territory (see photo). They are calling for universal suffrage for election of the Chief Executive [who is currently elected by a committee of 800 people, mostly pro-Beijing - ed] the elimination of "functional constituencies" [Corporate groups, who are entitled to representation in Legco - ed] which, according to analysts, generate Parliamentarians who only protect the interests of investors and the government.  

Earlier, on Jan.1, about 30,000 people marched to show support for universal suffrage. Among the marchers were also members of the Diocesan Commission for Justice and Peace.

Dr Kuan Hsin-chi, a Catholic scholar, told AsiaNews more people showed up partly because of local people’s discontent toward the government (such as the high-speech train case). Other reasons cited included the sentencing of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Kuan points to surveys which constantly show that about 60% of Hong Kong’s population (circa 6.5 million) support universal suffrage, and it would be impressive were such supporters to join the march.

The protest against Beijing – continued Kuan, emeritus professor of government and public administration of the Chinese University of Hong Kong - showed that local people have lost confidence in the local government, and are hoping Beijing will dialogue with the local democrats and listen to local people’s call for greater democracy.

As Catholics in society - he concluded -  Catholic social teachings require Church members to play a prophetic role and actively participate in democratization of the society.

A young university student Josephine Clancey, who joined the march with her Catholic parents, told AsiaNews, “Democracy is very important and every person has one’s own voice. The process of democratization has been much delayed. I hope the universal suffrage can be implemented soonest. As a member of the society, I want to express my view through the march.”

 

 

 

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