[IWAR] HONG KONG elections

From: Michael Wilson (MWILSON/0005514706at_private)
Date: Sat Dec 06 1997 - 10:24:44 PST

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                        Hong Kong leader promises fair elections
          Copyright ) 1997 Nando.net
          Copyright ) 1997 The Associated Press
       HONG KONG (December 6, 1997 11:59 a.m. EST http://www.nando.net) -- Hong
       Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa promised a policy of "impartial, open and fair
       elections" to 900 green-vested election workers rallying in a downtown
       park Saturday, just before he fell sideways off the low, red-carpeted
       Apparently unhurt and still wearing his trademark warm grin, Tung
       scrambled to his feet. But the fall seemed a bad omen for an election
       that some say is already ill-fated.
       Hong Kong democrats critical of China's one-party system say that new
       rules for next year's election are designed to lower their chances of
       winning seats.
       Even a grassroots party close to China says government plans to raise
       campaign spending ceilings - by 150 percent -- will hurt them and favor
       candidates from Hong Kong's powerful business elite. Democrats, with
       little support from big business, agree.
       The government says bigger constituencies this time mean candidates
       should be able to spend more. It denies targeting democrats in changing
       the election rules.
       As proof of their sincerity, officials point to a door-to-door
       registration drive, which Tung launched Saturday. This weekend, 30,000
       volunteers will knock on 2 million doors to sign up eligible voters.
       If people are out, the volunteers will call again over the next five
       A new election law shrinks the franchise for 30 of the 60 legislative
       seats from about 2.5 million registered voters to 180,000. Twenty others
       will be elected by universal suffrage, and 10 by a committee of 800.
       Random interviews in Hong Kong Park, where families and friends strolled
       among an exhibition of fragrant flowers, suggest some agree with the
       democrats' criticisms.
       "They've made it so 2 million less people will cast a vote. That's not
       very fair," said Connie Au, who was already registered.
       Another passer-by, Michael Fung, said, "I think many people support the
       Democratic Party. This election is different from last time."
       In 1995 elections, the Democratic Party's 19 seats made it the biggest
       party in the 60-seat legislature. With 11 allies, they had a powerful
       pro-democracy voice.
       But on July 1, China disbanded that legislature, saying it didn't agree
       with the rules under which it was elected, and installed an unelected
       The election method for the 20 directly-elected seats has been changed
       to a proportional representation system that tends to favor small
       groups, undercutting support for the Democratic Party
       One of the government's toughest critics, popular former independent
       lawmaker Emily Lau, said the government wants everyone to vote, but
       under rules that "favor big business and pro-Communist groups."
       -- By DIDI KIRSTEN TATLOW, The Associated Press 

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