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Over British objections, China selects legislature

December 21, 1996
Web posted at: 11:30 a.m. EST (1630 GMT)

legislator

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. movie icon (690K/18 sec. QuickTime movie)

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 accept reality."

"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.

qian

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 "stomach-churning."

"Here we are having foisted on us institutions which, frankly, you wouldn't try to run a tennis club with," Patten said.

China's supporters insist that Beijing had no choice but to act in order to avoid problems immediately after the hand- over.

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"It's is regrettable that we need to do this, but otherwise we will have a legislative vacuum," said David Chu, a pro- China legislator.

But critics, including pro-democracy legislator Emily Lau, say the dual lawmaking bodies will create political confusion.

"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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