HK Democrats Plan to Lobby Top Chinese Leader

September 5, 2005 12:00 am Last Updated: September 5, 2005 12:00 am

HONG KONG – Hong Kong&#039s pro-democracy lawmakers plan to press Chinese Vice-President Zeng Qinghong to give the city&#039s residents more voting rights when he arrives at the weekend to open a Disney theme park.

Zeng, China&#039s point-man on Hong Kong, arrives on Saturday for a three-day visit, during which he will meet politicians and business leaders. He will open a new Disneyland park next Monday.

Though all 60 legislators will meet Zeng at a dinner reception, they have been warned that he will have little time to discuss anything at length with them.

But the city&#039s more than 20 Democratic Party lawmakers are eager to speak up during the visit by Zeng, the highest-ranking Chinese official to go to Hong Kong since huge pro-democracy demonstrations in July 2003 rattled Beijing leaders.

The visit is also the first by a top Chinese leader since Donald Tsang took over as the free-wheeling capitalist city&#039s chief executive in June.

The Democratic Party plans to present Zeng with a petition urging Beijing to reconsider giving Hong Kong people universal suffrage by 2007 and 2008, when the city&#039s next chief executive and batch of lawmakers will be chosen.

Communist Beijing has already ruled out full voting rights for the city for several more years.

“We will also ask for the release of Ching Cheong,” a Democratic Party spokesman said, referring to a Hong Kong-based journalist accused of spying for Taiwan who has been in Chinese custody since April.

“We will ask Beijing not to interfere in Hong Kong&#039s high level of autonomy and to return home-visit permits that it has confiscated, not just from pro-democracy politicians, but from others as well,” the spokesman said on Monday.

The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and was promised a high level of autonomy. But there have been cases of Chinese interference in key Hong Kong matters, including the overturning of a ruling made by the city&#039s highest court.

“We will urge Beijing to undertake never to reinterpret Hong Kong laws again,” the spokesman said.

Pro-Beijing quarters have urged the democrats to refrain from extreme actions such as staging protests.

All of Hong Kong&#039s lawmakers, including the democrats, have also been invited to southern China later this month, a major move by Chinese leaders to reconcile with elements which they have long considered as troublemamakers.