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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, July 21, 2003

Golden opportunity for China: Hong Kong

Chinese media have given scant coverage to recent popular demonstrations in Hong Kong because party leaders fear the sentiment may be contagious.

As many as a half-million people took to the streets to protest the draconian Article 23 of the Basic Law, which would criminalize "treason, sedition, subversion and the theft of state secrets."

The protests brought implementation of Article 23 to a grinding halt, and much more: There is serious talk now of moving quickly to direct election of Hong Kong's legislature and chief executive.

Beijing sent a delegation of worried officials to study the protests. We hope they listened well, and not just to those in positions of favor.

Beijing's leadership seems to think high unemployment and a sagging economy, rather than the Article 23 legislation, are the main reasons for dissatisfaction. But the real complaint is that government in Hong Kong is unresponsive. Hong Kong actually needs security legislation of some sort, but reducing freedoms via Article 23 can only make things worse.

If China is farsighted, it will encourage Hong Kong to evolve into a more vibrant and uniquely Chinese democracy, the better eventually to lead the mainland out of its darkly repressive past.