CHINA REJECTS FASTER CHANGE FOR HONG KONG
A Beijing-appointed committee has rejected the demands of Hong Kong people for a faster pace of democratization after China regains sovereignty over the British colony in 1997. Less than one third of Hong Kong's legislature will be directly elected when China takes over, according to members of the committee that is drafting the territory's post-1997 constitution, known as the ``basic law.''
Hong Kong's electoral system will remain ``stabilized,'' with little change, for 10 years after 1997, the members said during a meeting now under way in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.
Most Hong Kong people want direct elections for more than half the seats of the Legislative Council, the colony's parliament, by 1997, recent polls in local newspapers indicate.
The committee also agreed to insert clauses in the basic law stating that Hong Kong should not be used as a ``base for subversion'' against China, and banning political organizations with foreign links after 1997.
The 55-member committee has 33 mainland members but only 18 from Hong Kong. Beijing expelled two liberal Hong Kong legislators, Martin Lee and Szeto Wah, from the committee in November.
Both Mr. Lee and Mr. Szeto criticized the latest basic law provisions. The antisubversion clause could be abused to suppress freedom in Hong Kong, much as a law against counterrevolutionary activities does in China, Lee warned.
``The water we drink comes from China; how can we subvert it?'' Szeto said.
A final draft of the basic law will go before China's National People's Congress for ratification in March.