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U.S. to boycott seating of new Hong Kong legislature

But Albright will attend handover ceremony

June 10, 1997
Web posted at: 9:11 a.m. EDT (1311 GMT)

Albright photo In this story:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- To show support for Hong Kong's elected legislature, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will not attend the swearing in of the Beijing-appointed replacement legislature when the British colony reverts to Chinese rule.

Responding to the apparent snub, China said Tuesday that attendance for the July 1 ceremony would be optional.

Albright plans to attend a ceremony to mark the return of Hong Kong to China after 156 years of British rule, but not the inauguration of members of the Provisional Legislature that will replace the territory's current elected chamber.

'Would not be appropriate'

State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said it "would not be appropriate" for Albright to witness the dissolution of the elected legislature because Hong Kong already has "a perfectly good legislature in place."

Hong Kong graphic

Albright has received no invitation for the legislature's swearing-in but will boycott if invited, Burns said.

A ceremony marking the transfer of sovereignty will begin on the night of June 30. Starting at about 1:30 a.m. the next day, members of the executive, judicial and legislative branches will be sworn in.

Attendance at both events would be optional, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Cui Tiankai.

"(We) have invited some international guests," Cui told a news briefing in Beijing. "Who will attend and what activities they attend, is of course up to them to decide," he said.

U.S. officials, asking not to be identified, said it was not clear whether other dignitaries planning to go to Hong Kong will take the same stand as Albright.


Lawsuit challenges China-picked legislature

The 60-member Provisional Legislature, which has met so far in China because of doubts about its pre-handover legality, is packed with pro-Beijing politicians and businessmen picked by a China-controlled committee six months ago.

Hong Kong's Democratic Party filed a court injunction on Tuesday to challenge the body's constitutional legality.

Legal experts said the move had little chance of success but would cause intense embarrassment and may temporarily block the Beijing-selected chamber.

Despite Albright's protest, the secretary of state is going to Hong Kong to show support for the colony's democratic system, Burns said.

U.S. officials said there is some concern that the appointed legislature might acquire international legitimacy if it takes the oath of office before a large number of international dignitaries.

The Associated Press and Reuters  

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