GRASS-ROOTS elections in Hong Kong planned for Sunday are
testing British democratic reforms and Chinese political control in
the crown colony.
Although issues such as bus fares and garbage pickup will most
directly affect voters, the election of 346 district board members
will be the first poll held under Britain's more-democratic rules,
which were nudged through the Hong Kong legislature in July by
British Gov. Chris Patten and will help shape Hong Kong's political
future, colony analysts say.
The vote is being viewed by Hong Kong political parties as a
test-run for legislative elections in 1995, and in a number of
areas is pitting pro-Chinese candidates against those favoring
As a result of the Patten changes, the elected district board
members will send 10 of their colleagues to sit on the 1995
legislature, enhancing the political significance of Sunday's vote.
Ironically, China is urging its backers to participate in the
election despite its vociferous attempts to block the Patten reform
package. It has pledged to scuttle the current political structure
when Hong Kong reverts to Chinese rule in July 1997.
In late August, the nominal Chinese parliament voted unanimously
to terminate political institutions set up by the British.
Still, China cannot be seen to marginalize itself since voters
are not being swayed by the Chinese threats, analysts say. Hong
Kong political observers predict about one-third of the colony's
2.5 million registered voters will participate.
According to a survey of 6,400 voters by the Social Science
Research Center of Hong Kong University, published yesterday, 78
percent of the respondents said they would not be deterred by
China's pledge to dismantle the British political structure. The
survey predicted that pro-democracy parties are likely to get the
largest number of board seats, although up to 50 percent of the
slots could be captured by independents.
"China can't afford to sit on the sidelines and not try to
shape future events," says Lau Siu-kai, a member of a Hong Kong
advisory board for the Beijing government.
The vote coincides with the Hong Kong visit of British Foreign
Secretary Douglas Hurd, who arrived yesterday. Facing new obstacles
to finalizing transition issues with China, Mr. Hurd will consult
with Mr. Patten and other British officials in Hong Kong to draw up
a strategy for upcoming meetings with Chinese officials.
Hurd is scheduled to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen
later this month during the upcoming session of the United Nations
General Assembly in New York. …