Hong Kong Faces Push for Manifesto Activists Planning Grand Gesture of Democratic Rights

Article excerpt

One week before Hong Kong reverts to China, prickly questions cropped up Tuesday about handover-night displays of democratic activism.

Members of Hong Kong's elected legislature - who'll be out of a job once the switch occurs - want to deliver a manifesto from the balcony of the legislative building just after the handover at midnight Monday.

The new legislature set up by China isn't happy, saying such a gesture would be "propaganda" and "might not be appropriate." The issue is still being negotiated with the incoming government, but some outgoing lawmakers have hinted they might defy a ban. Martin Lee, leader of the Democrats, Hong Kong's biggest party, has said he will clamber up a ladder to the second-floor balcony if he is barred from the legislative building after midnight. Also Tuesday, Hong Kong lawmakers approved a new sedition law. Introduced by the colonial government, it broadens the list of offenses against the state but stipulates that they are offenses only if they entail violence. China threatened earlier to annul any new legislation on sedition, seeing it as an attempt to forestall the subversion law that is to be passed by the post-colonial legislature. In China, verbal attacks on the state, even where no violence is involved, are an offense. Attempts by democratic legislators to pass more liberal amendments were defeated, and Gov. Chris Patten said he believed China could live with the outcome. "I think the bill as it stands is a good one," he told reporters. Meanwhile, a grass-roots group that China has labeled subversive said Tuesday it will keep on marching and speaking out for democracy after the British territory reverts to Chinese rule. "We will try to fight for democracy, not only in Hong Kong but also in China," said Cheung Man-kwong, a leader of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China. …