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7/12/04 - HONG KONG DEMOCRACY RALLY - 2004-07-13

On September 12th, voters will cast ballots for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. But only half of Hong Kong’s sixty legislators will be directly elected by voters. The other half will continue to be chosen by business, professional, civic, and political groups.

Many people in Hong Kong want all legislators to be directly elected. They would also like Hong Kong’s chief executive to be chosen by voters, not, as is now the case, by an appointed eight-hundred-member committee.

Democracy supporters in Hong Kong have expressed their views in huge rallies over the past couple of years. The latest was on July 1st, the seventh anniversary of Britain’s return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. Despite high heat and humidity, at least two-hundred-thousand people marched through the streets of Hong Kong to demand more democracy.

Under its Basic Law, Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China granted a high degree of autonomy. According to Article Sixty-Eight of the Basic Law, the ultimate goal is the election of all members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage. But in April, Chinese officials ruled out direct election of any more of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council members until at least 2012.

The U.S., says State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli, “respects the right of the people of Hong Kong to express their commitment to democracy and political reform peacefully”:

“It is up to the people of Hong Kong and the government of Hong Kong to determine the pace and scope of democratization. It is our longstanding policy to support Hong Kong’s move toward electoral reform and universal suffrage, as provided for in the Basic Law.”

It is critical to Hong Kong’s future that it remain a fully autonomous and open society governed by the rule of law. Full democracy would ensure Hong Kong’s continued freedom and success.