EU ready to comment on decisions over suffrage

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 January, 2008, 12:00am
 

The European Union is expected to comment today on Beijing's decision to reject full democracy for Hong Kong in 2012 while allowing for the possibility of universal suffrage for the chief executive election in 2017.

The deadline for last-minute amendments to the wording of a joint statement by the 27 member states passed last night, and the comments were expected to be 'well-considered and balanced', according to a European diplomat based in Hong Kong.

'It's encouraging that all member states have taken an interest and reached a consensus,' the European diplomatic source said.

Pan-democrats welcomed the initiative, and said they were encouraged by recent events where the development of democracy in Hong Kong had been the subject of international concern.

Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said international interest was important, especially given that pan-democrats hoped any future proposal for direct elections would incorporate international definitions of universal suffrage, to give 'genuine democracy'.

Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah said he had taken the opportunity at a lunch meeting yesterday with British ambassador to China, Sir William Ehrman, to thank him for Britain raising the profile of Hong Kong's political development on the world stage.

He said that during last week's meeting between Premier Wen Jiabao and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Mr Brown made a point of discussing Hong Kong's political development.

'I think this is probably the first time Hong Kong has been raised in a meeting between such influential leaders, and it was encouraging Premier Wen seemed open to the discussion,' Mr Tong said.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband issued a statement within hours of Beijing's decision on December 29, saying the ruling out of free elections in 2012 'will be a disappointment for all those who want to see Hong Kong move to full democracy as soon as possible'.

'The National People's Congress' statement clearly points towards universal suffrage for the chief executive election in 2017 and the Legislative Council thereafter,' he said.

'I hope that all parties concerned can engage in meaningful dialogue to allow this, and that the Hong Kong authorities will now put forward constructive proposals making progress in 2012 to achieve this goal.'

It is understood that Sir William - a former political adviser to Hong Kong's last governor, Chris Patten - called on his old friend, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, yesterday morning during his one-day visit. He joined lawmakers from across the political spectrum for lunch and later met Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing.

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