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Hong Kong Chief Silent on Democratic Reform
In his first policy address, Donald Tsang fails to provide timetable for promotion of human rights
David Kootnikoff (kaspian)     Print Article 
Published 2005-10-17 09:52 (KST)   
On Oct. 12, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Donald Tsang gave his first policy address since being appointed by Beijing last June, but failed to provide a timetable for one of the territory's most pressing issues -- democratic reform. Instead, he referred to strengthening ties with mainland China, calling the relationship "a prerequisite" for "constitutional development."

Saying that constitutional reforms will come "later" and that they "will mark a key milestone in the development of democracy in Hong Kong," Tsang called on the members of Hong Kong's Legislative Council (Legco) "to seek common ground while accommodating differences and reach a consensus, so that Hong Kong's constitutional development can move forward."

However, Tsang failed to appeal to or make reference to Mainland authorities and to their determining role in the development of Hong Kong's democracy, a reform which a majority of this city's 6.8 million citizen's support.

Making repeated references to "harmony" and "harmonious," phrases much favored and used by Beijing, Tsang also pledged to "propose legislation to prohibit racial discrimination" while continuing to "promote the rights of children and sexual minorities."

During a press conference after his speech, Tsang refrained from elaborating on any democratic reforms to the local press. However, the next day while fielding questions from international journalists, Tsang was more candid. Saying he "wants full democracy for Hong Kong as soon as possible," but that Beijing has not given the signal, Tsang acknowledged the pervasive role Beijing plays in Hong Kong's affairs.

Despite the territory's Basic Law (mini-constitution) enshrining "a high degree of autonomy" for Hong Kong within the principle of "one country, two systems," the position of mainland China, by the Chief Executive's own admission, takes precedence over the aspirations of the majority of people in Hong Kong.

The title of the maiden policy speech "Strong Governance for the People," made notable for the conspicuous absence of "by the people," was defined by Tsang as "a government that operates in strict accordance with the law." However, when that same law is permitted to shift according to the whims or recollections of a few Mainland authorities, strong is the last adjective that comes to mind -- weak or incoherent are more apt descriptors.

As University of Hong Kong professor and constitutional expert Yash Ghai has noted, the Basic Law cannot serve its function as the supreme law of Hong Kong in the face of repeated violations. Mainland authorities continue to display contempt for Hong Kong's autonomy -- now Hong Kong's Chief Executive appears to be joining the fray.

Related Articles
Hong Kong Chief Faces Crisis of Legitimacy
Hong Kong Failing to Uphold Human Rights
Thousands March for Democracy in Hong Kong


©2005 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter David Kootnikoff

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