Hong Kong's new legislature stirs controversy
June 24, 1997
Web posted at: 11:38 a.m. EDT (1538 GMT)
From Correspondent Mike Chinoy
HONG KONG (CNN) -- Of all the decisions China has made
regarding the Hong Kong handover, none produced more anger
and controversy than the decision to replace the territory's
current elected legislature with an appointed one.
Elected legislator Emily Lau called China's action a
"Come July first, all of us will be thrown out of office,"
she said. "The whole of Hong Kong will be disenfranchised.
And no one can claim there is somebody in the legislature who
can represent him or her. "
The members of the appointed Provisional Legislature, which
has been meeting across the border in China for the pasts six
"The Provisional Legislature is in existence because of the
inability of Britain and China to come to an agreement on
political reform. So it is a fact of life," said Henry Tang, a member of the new body.
The source of the disagreement was Gov. Chris Patten's
move to make the Legislative Council more democratic -- a
sharp change from earlier decades when Hong Kong was run by a
powerful British governor while an appointed legislature
rubber-stamped his decisions.
The result was an election in 1995 in which a million people
voted -- and pro-democracy candidates scored impressive
victories. That led to a Beijing declaration that all
institutions created under Patten's reforms would be
"Chinese leaders have stressed repeatedly that they want Hong
Kong to be an economic city, not a political city," said
Willem Van Kemenade, author of "China, Hong Kong, Taiwan,
Inc." "They want Hong Kong to be ruled by business tycoons,
not by elected politicians."
It is returning Hong Kong to its traditionally autocratic
colonial style of government rather than imposing Beijing-
style dictatorship that is at the heart of China's decision
to appoint a Provisional Legislature.
"Considering the history of Hong Kong, considering the 150
years of colonial rule," said Provisional Legislator Selina
Chow, "it is inevitable that some people want to move forward
more carefully than others."
But it may be easier to undo the legislature Patten created
than to erase the ideas he implanted.
"What you can't do is dismantle the benchmarks we've
established in the last five years," Patten said. "People
know what a free society is in Hong Kong. They know what free
And most Hong Kong people seem reluctant
to see all that disappear -- so it's no surprise that on the
night of the handover, the major protest rallies will take
place at the Legislative Council building.
There, pro-democracy politicians elected in 1995 plan to stay
on after midnight when the premises should be turned over to
their unelected provisional rivals.
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