HK MPs press ahead with motion flaying China

Associated Press

Hong Kong, May 11:

Lawmakers in Hong Kong are ready to debate a tone-downed motion criticising China’s decision to delay full democracy in the territory, after the original version was rejected following criticism from local and Beijing authorities, an official said today. Legislative Council President Rita Fan objected to the original draft because it accused Beijing’s top legislative body of violating its promise to allow significant autonomy in this former British colony. Fan said yesterday the revised version was ready for debate after opposition legislators agreed to drop explicit criticism of the Chinese legislature, Hong Kong’s legislative spokesman Simon Wong said. Debate on the revised, nonbinding motion, is scheduled to start May 19. Hong Kongers had hoped to directly elect their next leader in 2007 and all lawmakers in 2008, but the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress ruled that out, saying direct polls could cause social or economic instability in the territory. Fan agreed to leave in an expression of “regret about and dissatisfaction with” the ruling, Wong said. Pro-democracy lawmaker Emily Lau said Fan’s decision to throw out the original motion suppressed freedom of speech.

“Either we delete the offending wording or there’s no motion at all. Who would accept such a ridiculous thing?” she said today. An operator who answered the telephone at China’s liaison office in Hong Kong said no one was immediately available for comment. Beijing had criticised the original motion, saying it exceeded Hong Kong’s constitutional authority. Hong Kong’s mini-constitution — the Basic Law — holds out the possibility of full democracy in the next few years but gives no timetable.