Hong Kong pro-Beijing party chairman dies

HONG KONG Wed Aug 8, 2007 3:51am EDT

Ma Lik speaks to reporters after becoming the new chairman of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB), the territory's largest pro-Beijing party, in Hong Kong in this December 10, 2003 file photo. Ma died in a Guangzhou hospital on August 8, 2007 at the age of 55. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2004, local media reported. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/Files

Ma Lik speaks to reporters after becoming the new chairman of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB), the territory's largest pro-Beijing party, in Hong Kong in this December 10, 2003 file photo. Ma died in a Guangzhou hospital on August 8, 2007 at the age of 55. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2004, local media reported.

Credit: Reuters/Bobby Yip/Files

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HONG KONG (Reuters) - The head of Hong Kong's largest pro-China political party, widely criticized for comments appearing to play down the events of June 4, 1989, in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, died on Wednesday, a party spokesman said.

Ma Lik, head of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), told reporters in May that the 1989 crackdown, in which troops crushed pro-democracy protests with huge loss of life, "wasn't a massacre".

Ma later admitted he had been rash in his comments, his party apologized and said he had acted inappropriately.

Ma, 55, who had been diagnosed with colon cancer, died in a hospital in south China.

Hong Kong returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997. Annual vigils remembering the victims of June 4 are held in the territory every year.

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