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1/17/04 - DEMOCRACY FOR HONG KONG - 2004-01-20

Under their Basic Law, the people of Hong Kong enjoy many economic freedoms and civil liberties. That same law also calls for moving toward more democracy. The U.S., says State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, strongly supports “democracy through electoral reform and universal suffrage in Hong Kong”:

“We believe these will advance economic and social development and are essential to Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability within the ‘one country, two systems’ framework.”

The people of Hong Kong clearly feel strongly about expanding democracy. On January 1st, tens of thousands of demonstrators marched peacefully to urge that Hong Kong’s chief executive and all members of its legislature be directly elected.

Under the Basic Law, Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China with a high degree of autonomy. Currently, the chief executive is chosen by an eight-hundred-member committee. And only half of the members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council are directly elected. The other half are chosen by business, professional, civic, and political groups. According to Article Sixty-Eight of the Basic Law, the government’s ultimate aim is the election of all members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage. Democracy advocates in Hong Kong are pushing for direct election of the chief executive in 2007 and direct election of all members of the Legislative Council in 2008.

Now is the time, says Mr. Boucher, for discussions on how to bring about a democratically elected government in Hong Kong:

“We express, and have expressed before, our support for democracy. . . . [I]t’s time for fairly wide extensive consultations in Hong Kong so that the Hong Kong people get their chance to design the system that’s appropriate for them.”

U.S. support for democracy is not specific to China or Hong Kong. U.S. support for democracy is worldwide.