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3/9/04 - POWELL ON CHINA - 2004-03-08

Earlier this year, nearly one-hundred thousand demonstrators marched peacefully through the streets of Hong Kong in support of democratization. “We want full democracy -- the right to elect our own chief executive and all members of the Legislative Council,” said Richard Tsoi, a leader of Hong Kong’s Civil Human Rights Front. Mr. Tsoi was actively involved in planning this demonstration and an even larger one in July 2003.

In a speech on March 2nd, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell commented on Hong Kong:

“It is important to all those who cherish democracy that Hong Kong remain open and tolerant, and that its political culture continue to thrive under the ‘Basic Law’ with China.”

Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. In accordance with the Chinese-British Joint Declaration of 1984, China agreed to let Hong Kong keep its own system of rights and freedoms for fifty years under a unique "one country, two systems" framework.

Secretary of State Powell says time is on the side of democracies and market economies:

“There are still a few self-described Communist countries in East Asia, but Asian Communism is withering away. The share of the economy owned by the government is smaller today in China than it is in France.”

The market-oriented reforms that China has implemented over the past two decades have encouraged individual initiative and entrepreneurship. China today has the sixth-largest economy in the world. China has prospered economically, said Secretary of State Powell:

“China’s political system hasn’t yet followed suit. But our understanding of politics and human nature suggests that it eventually will.”

“When China comes inevitably to accept systematic political reform,” says Mr. Powell, “its leaders will see democracy in the same light that they have seen market economics. They will see that freedom embedded in the rule of law is what the future looks like and...we expect they will decide accordingly.”