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Saturday, March 7, 2015, 12:07

Seize opportunity to achieve universal suffrage: Zhang

By Shadow Li in Beijing and Luis Liu in Hong Kong

Seize opportunity to achieve universal suffrage: Zhang
Chairman of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPC), Zhang Dejiang attends the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 3, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / WANG ZHAO)

Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC), on Friday called on the people of Hong Kong to seize the historic opportunity to achieve universal suffrage in 2017.

Speaking at a meeting with NPC deputies from Hong Kong and Macao, Zhang said Hong Kong should "make every effort to introduce" universal suffrage in 2017. This is also the central government's ever present aspiration, said Zhang.

"This is a historic opportunity and has profound significance for the future of Hong Kong," Zhang said. "It must be seized and should not be missed."

"Some people think that if the political reform stands still, it will be scrapped and start all over again. It is not like that. The historic opportunity must be seized and won't happen again if it is missed," Zhang said.

Noticing that some parties were making every endeavor, both externally and internally, to prevent Hong Kong from achieving universal suffrage in 2017, Zhang told the SAR's NPC deputies that history would hold those people responsible.

Zhang emphasized the central government's confidence that Hong Kong would proceed smoothly toward democracy while maintaining its prosperity.

Zhang also warned of remarks advocating independence for Hong Kong. Those calls "jeopardize both Hong Kong society's stability and the country's security and interests" and are "intolerable", he said.

The Hong Kong SAR had encountered three new problems, he said, namely attempts to derail the democracy process, the adverse effects of the illegal "Occupy Central" campaign, and growing radical elements in society, especially those advocating separatism.

Elsie Leung Oi-sie, vice-chairwoman of the NPCSC’s Hong Kong SAR Basic Law Committee, said the central government was well aware of what happens in Hong Kong and had a clear policy toward the region.

"I think the NPCSC's August decision made it clear that it won't restart the political reform process aimed at introducing universal suffrage in 2017," said Leung. "Achieving universal suffrage is a goal, but it doesn't mean that the election method can't be improved after realizing it."

Earlier on Friday, Britain's House of Commons issued a report attacking the NPCSC's August decision on the elections of Hong Kong's Chief Executive and Legislative Council.

Hong Kong NPC deputies described Britain's behavior as driving a wedge between the central government and the region.

NPC deputy Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai said the British parliament was not helping and would only make things worse.

"In the worst-case scenario, it will stop Hong Kong from moving forward with its democracy process and take the region back to where it started," added Fan.

Connie Lam Suk-yee, a Hong Kong member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, questioned the legal grounds on which the British report was issued.

"What position does Britain have in this?" Lam said. "They shouldn't interfere with China's internal affairs and should mind their own business."

Hong Kong’s consultation period on electoral reform ends on Saturday.

A spokesman said the Hong Kong government hoped different sections of the community could discuss the issue in a rational and pragmatic manner and forge a consensus under the Basic Law and the framework laid down by the NPCSC decision so that 5 million eligible voters would be able to elect the next Chief Executive through "one person, one vote" as scheduled in 2017.

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