Hong Kong's Bishop Backs Pro-democracy Bid

250,000 Take to the Streets in March

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HONG KONG, DEC. 5, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The bishop of Hong Kong appealed for full democracy, as he spoke prior to a mass demonstration in the heart of this city.

Sunday’s pro-democracy march drew an unexpectedly large crowd of some 250,000 people, according to the organizers cited by AsiaNews.

The demonstration demanded full democracy as stipulated in the territory’s mini-constitution accepted by China eight years ago, when the formal British colony passed to the rule of the People’s Republic, while maintaining some autonomy.

Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, reported that only “some citizens of Hong Kong” were participating in the demonstration. (See related China story in today’s News Briefs.)

Trade unionists, pro-democracy activists, associations and whole families with children took part in the demonstration, carrying placards denouncing the restraints imposed by China on the people’s requests: grass-roots election for the head of the executive, and universal suffrage.

AsiaNews, an agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, noted that, in response to widespread protests, the authorities — in agreement with Beijing — had proposed the enlargement of the 800-member committee which chooses the governor.

Beijing even intervened to say that each and every electoral reform toward full democracy must be managed by China, infringing the “one country, two systems” principle on which Hong Kong’s autonomy is based.

Prayer service

AsiaNews said that the high turnout for the march is a sign of the people’s frustration and the first indication of no confidence in Donald Tsung, the Beijing-backed governor chosen by the committee last June.

Before the march, Bishop Joseph Zen of Hong Kong presided over a prayer service, urging the population to back the journey toward democracy.

The prelate, like other well-known personalities in the territory, is calling not for small changes to the electoral committees — as proposed by Beijing — but for universal suffrage and a timetable for its implementation in Hong Kong.

According to some surveys, more than 60% of the population wants full democracy.

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