Despite China’s warning, HK lawmakers mourn Zhao

Associated Press

Hong Kong, January 19:

Defying a warning from Beijing, opposition lawmakers in Hong Kong observed a brief silence in the legislature today to honour late Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang who was ousted in 1989 for sympathising with pro-democracy protesters. More than 20 opposition lawmakers stood up and mourned Zhao in the chamber, a day after Chen Zuoer, a senior Chinese official, said such an action would be unconstitutional.

Chen’s comments drew fire in Hong Kong, where rights activists accused him of restricting free speech in this former British colony, which returned to China in 1997 but retains Western-style freedoms. Zhao was kept under house arrest for 15 years until his death at a Beijing hospital on Monday. The head of Hong Kong’s legislature, Rita Fan, yesterday rejected a request to let the assembly observe a one-minute silence for Zhao, saying the reformist leader didn’t make major contributions to Hong Kong. When lawmakers stood for the moment of silence, Fan abruptly adjourned today’s session and criticised the lawmakers for what she called “disorderly behaviour.” The meeting was postponed until next Wednesday.

Earlier, activists laid wreaths at a makeshift tribute corner in a downtown park featuring a large portrait of Zhao, who was purged for sympathising with pro-democracy protesters who occupied Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. Chinese troops cleared the square, killing hundreds and maybe thousands of demonstrators.