Democrats defiant as Legco rejects backing July 1 rally

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 June, 2007, 12:00am

A motion calling on members of the public to join the July 1 march to 'demonstrate people's power' was defeated in the Legislative Council yesterday.

Among directly elected lawmakers, 14 voted for the motion moved by Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, eight opposed it and one abstained.

Of the functional constituency legislators, seven supported it, 10 opposed and nine abstained.

While pan-democratic lawmakers expected the defeat, they took advantage of the platform to promote the march, which will focus on the fight for universal suffrage.

'Without full democracy, everything is merely empty talk,' said pro-democrat Martin Lee Chu-ming.

Mr Lee's amendment to the motion was also defeated.

The pan-democratic camp has expressed concern over recent remarks by Wu Bangguo , chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, on the limits to autonomy and power enjoyed by Hong Kong.

Only one member each of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong and the Liberal Party spoke during the debate.

'Marching on the street is neither the only, nor the best, way to strive for a more democratic and more prosperous city,' said Liberal Howard Young.

DAB vice-chairman Tam Yiu-chung said Hongkongers preferred a stable and harmonious environment to confrontation.

Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung said people should focus on establishing consensus rather than urging the public to march in the streets.

Mr Lam noted that the Green Paper on constitutional development, scheduled to be published next month, would have three months for public consultations.

Rejecting the claims by democrats, Mr Lam suggested a three-month period was an appropriate length of time for the consultation. 'The public has already discussed the issue in the Commission on Strategic Development for 20 months,' he said. 'And the Green Paper is only the starting point for progress. The Legislative Council [will certainly get a full consultation] on the paper.'

Meanwhile, pan-democrats legislators were dissatisfied with the restrictions placed by police on the July 1 rally.

'It is unacceptable to hear the police trying to restrict the number of wheelchairs participating in the rally,' said lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, who has been organising disabled access to the rally.

The police reportedly would prefer that only 10 disabled people in wheelchairs join the march to the Central Government Offices in Central.

Mr Cheung has printed 200 T-shirts, with calligraphy by veteran democrat Szeto Wah, to urge the public to join the rally. They will be sold online at his website,