Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Basic Law Becomes More Complex

China Claims Right to Amend Hong Kong Law

BEIJING (AP)- China issued a major ruling Tuesday on how Hong Kong chooses its leaders, saying the territory must submit proposed political reforms to Beijing for approval.

The Chinese government's National People's Congress issued the ruling in an interpretation of the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-constitution.

"The right to amend the law belongs to the National People's Congress," said Qiao Xiaoyang, deputy secretary-general of the NPC's Standing Committee. He added, outlining central power: "A locality has no fixed power. All powers of the locality derive from the authorization of the central authorities."

"We have not only not impeded the democratic process in Hong Kong, but we have promoted democracy in Hong Kong's political system through our interpretation," Qiao said.

The committee's vote ties the hands of the Hong Kong government by allowing only Beijing to ultimately approve reforms - control that pro-democracy activists have vehemently lobbied against.

"This is like having to ask a robber if you can use your own money," said Law Yuk-kai, director of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, a private group. "The Hong Kong people have been robbed of their rights."

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing said it was "unclear" about the ruling.

Hong Kong, a peninsula and group of islands on the southeastern edge of mainland China, was a British territory for 150 years before reverting to the Chinese in 1997. Beijing promised it would allow the region to operate under the principle of "one country, two systems" and a "high degree of autonomy."

The Basic Law is the document that governs those rights for Hong Kong's people, and is administered by the territory's chief executive, the Beijing-appointed Tung Chee-hwa.

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