Over British objections, China selects legislature
December 21, 1996
Web posted at: 11:30 a.m. EST (1630 GMT)
HONG KONG (CNN) -- British and Chinese officials had harsh
words for one another Saturday following China's selection of
a new lawmaking body for Hong Kong to replace the British
colony's elected body. (690K/18 sec.
A hand-picked group of 400 Hong Kong citizens gathered in
Shenzhen, just across the border in China, to elect 60 new
legislators, despite objections from Britain that the move
undermined Hong Kong's democracy.
Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Quichen dismissed British
objections, saying that the country "lacks the courage to
"Their cliched theme only reflects their sense of
helplessness in the face of the inevitable," he said.
Qian's comments drew an equally sharp retort from Hong Kong's
British Governor Chris Patten, who called on China to join
Britain in taking the case to international court.
The new Chinese backed legislature will operate
simultaneously with Hong Kong's elected legislature, which
China has said must be disbanded when it takes over the
colony on July 1, 1997.
Patten called China's legislature a political institution
"which a Third-World country would reject" and said it was
"Here we are having foisted on us institutions which,
frankly, you wouldn't try to run a tennis club with," Patten
China's supporters insist that Beijing had no choice but to
act in order to avoid problems immediately after the hand-
"It's is regrettable that we need to do this, but otherwise
we will have a legislative vacuum," said David Chu, a pro-
But critics, including pro-democracy legislator Emily Lau,
say the dual lawmaking bodies will create political
"Hong Kong cannot withstand the shock and chaos of having
two legislatures operate at the same time," Lau said.
Lau was among about 200 pro-democracy demonstrators who
marched through Hong Kong Saturday to protest the new
legislature. Speaking at a square next to the current
Legislative Council's chambers, she called the new body
"illegal," and called on the Chinese government to "respect
our wishes and allow us to have democracy."
Hong Kong Bureau Chief Mike Chinoy and
Reuters contributed to this report.
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