(Adds comment from China's Foreign Ministry)
By Anne Marie Roantree and Clare Baldwin
HONG KONG, Sept 3 Hong Kong's first Chinese
leader after the end of British rule appealed to all sides in
the democracy dispute to work together on Wednesday as the last
colonial governor said China must stand by its promises.
Hong Kong, which returned to China in 1997, is bracing for a
wave of protests after Beijing on Sunday ruled out fully
democratic elections for the city's leader in 2017, sparking a
political showdown with democrats.
"Hong Kong is our home, we have to work together," first
Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, 77, handpicked by China, said in
"The only way out, and the only way forward, is through
working together, hand in hand, otherwise there will be no end
to bitter squabbles and the paralysis."
A half-million strong anti-government rally forced former
shipping magnate Tung to step down in 2005, nearly two years
before completing his second five-year term. He had faced
criticism over plans for an anti-subversion bill amid widespread
calls for greater democracy.
Police on Monday used pepper spray to disperse activists who
heckled and jeered a senior Chinese official who flew to Hong
Kong to explain the decision by China's National People's
Congress Standing Committee announced on Sunday.
China said in the Basic Law mini-constitution for Hong Kong
that universal suffrage was an eventual aim. On Sunday, it said
it would permit a vote for Hong Kong's next chief executive, but
only for a handful of pre-screened candidates.
Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong who was
in tears during the 1997 handover ceremony, said Britain had a
moral and political obligation to ensure China respects its
"We have a huge stake in the wellbeing of Hong Kong, with a
political system in balance with its economic freedom," said
Patten in a letter to the Financial Times.
His letter came a day after Britain's parliament said it had
rejected Chinese calls to scrap an inquiry into Hong Kong's
progress towards democracy.
China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday criticised
the British inquiry, saying it represented interference in
China's internal politics.
"Today's Hong Kong is not the Hong Kong of 1997," the
Chinese ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, said at a daily press
briefing. "The affairs of Hong Kong Special Administrative
Region are China's domestic affairs, and we oppose outside
interference in those affairs in any form."
Communist Party leaders in Beijing fear calls for democracy
spreading to other cities. Britain itself made no mention of
democracy for Hong Kong until the dying days of more than 150
years of colonial rule.
Pro-democracy activist group Occupy Central has threatened
to lock down Hong Kong's financial district on an unspecified
date unless China grants full democracy.
"Our target is a 2017 chief executive election that meets
international standards. Although this target has been brutally
strangled ... the significance of our movement will not end at
this point," the group said in a statement emailed to reporters
"We Hongkongers won't accept failure in our road to
Hedge fund manager Edwin Chin, one of the financial sector's
prominent supporters of Occupy, urged Hong Kong people to
continue to rally for democracy.
"If people do not fight, it will get worse. Democracy in
Hong Kong is difficult, but I do not lose hope. I hope the next
generation can (make it come true)," he said.
Chin told Reuters on Tuesday that a leading business
newspaper had dropped his long-running column, branding it a
(Additional reporting by Farah Master, Diana Chan, Dancy Zhang
and Clare Jim; Editing by Nick Macfie and Robert Birsel)