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4/13/04 - SUPPORT FOR HONG KONG DEMOCRACY - 2004-04-14

On April 11th, thousands of people marched through the streets of Hong Kong to show their support for democracy. Along with many others in Hong Kong, the demonstrators favor the direct election of Hong Kong’s chief executive and the members of its Legislature Council.

The U.S., says State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli, supports the “expressed aspirations” of the Hong Kong people for democracy:

“We support electoral reform and universal suffrage in Hong Kong in keeping with the Basic Law’s own goals, and we would encourage dialogue, continuing dialogue. . .toward that end.”

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. Twenty-four of the sixty members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council are now elected, but that number will rise to thirty in elections scheduled for September. The rest of the legislators are chosen by business, professional, civic, and political groups.

According to Article Sixty-Eight of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the ultimate goal is the election of all members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage. Many democracy proponents say this should apply to the chief executive as well.

International confidence in Hong Kong, says Mr. Ereli, “is predicated on its rule of law and high degree of autonomy”:

“Hong Kong’s continued success depends on, and will continue to depend on, the autonomy that was envisioned by Beijing nearly twenty years ago when it created the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework, and. . .our aim is to support that. . .consistent with the Basic Law.”

It is critical to Hong Kong’s future, says U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Ereli, “that there be a fully autonomous and open society that is governed by the rule of law.”