A Red-Faced China Vows To Ignore Hong Kong Vote
CHINA stonily reiterated yesterday it would disband Hong Kong's elected legislature in the face of a stunning rebuke handed out by voters in the British colony. Beijing repeated its pledge to dismiss elected policymakers in 1997 when it takes over Hong Kong after pro-democracy candidates swept to a huge victory Sunday in the colony's last election under British rule. In China's perception, ''The results of the ... elections showed that hope for a smooth transition and love of the motherland and Hong Kong remain the main trend in Hong Kong,'' says an official of the New China News Agency, Beijing's de facto embassy in the colony. ''The attitude of the Chinese government on this issue is consistent and will not change,'' he continues. ''We hope that those people chosen in the election ... can make the interests of the Hong Kong people their priority and work for the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong during the transition period.'' China has insisted that all representative bodies in the British-controlled administration will be annulled by June 30, 1997, because they were chosen under British political reforms pushed by Britain's last governor, Chris Patten, and were bitterly opposed by China. It has refused to say how the elected bodies would be changed, insisting it is an internal Chinese affair. Mr. Patten has called China's most recent challenge ''characteristically unhelpful'' and urged Beijing to ''get a little more in tune with what people in Hong Kong think and do.'' As an open slap at Beijing, the pro-democracy candidates, regarded as subversive by Chinese officials, swept 16 of the 20 seats, which were directly elected by geographically based constituencies. Under Hong Kong's intricate electoral system, 30 other seats were voted by occupation-based ''functional'' electorates, and 10 were filled by local representative bodies. The Democratic Party, the most outspoken critic of China and the party most reviled by Beijing, captured 12 directly elected seats compared with only two by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, the main pro-China party. The geographical constituency seats are elected by universal suffrage and considered the most representative by many Hong Kong voters. But the Democrats fell short of an overall majority in the 60-seat Legislative Council and will be forced to work within a body almost evenly balanced between the pro-democracy and pro-China camps. Although the Democrats almost repeated their showing in an election landslide in 1991, when almost all the party's incumbents were returned to their seats, voter turnout dropped to 36 percent from 39 percent four years ago. Martin Lee, the Democratic Party leader and a prominent lawyer who recently was refused a visa to attend a conference in China, won handily over a pro-China challenger. Emily Lau and Christine Loh, independent candidates who are among Beijing's most outspoken opponents, also scored solid victories. And Democratic Alliance leaders Tsang Yok-sing and Gary Cheng both narrowly lost to pro-democracy candidates.