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( A P ) HONG KONG - China on Friday denounced a move by Hong Kong's opposition legislators to pressure Beijing for full democracy by resigning their seats, calling it a challenge to its authority over the former British colony.|
While Hong Kong enjoys Western-style civil liberties such as freedom of speech as part of its semi-autonomous status under Chinese rule, its leader is chosen by a committee stacked with Beijing's allies. Its 60-member legislature is half elected, half chosen by interest groups.
The Chinese government ruled in 2007 that Hong Kong can''t elect its own leader until 2017 and the entire legislature until 2020. Democracy activists say this wealthy financial hub of 7 million is ready for full democracy now.
Two Hong Kong opposition political parties announced recently five of their legislators-one from each of Hong Kong's five major electoral districts-will resign on Jan. 27. The parties will then field candidates in the subsequent special elections, the idea being the territory-wide by-elections will serve as a de facto referendum on democracy.
The Chinese government said in a statement Friday that Hong Kong doesn't have a referendum law, and as part of China, Hong Kong doesn't have the authority to launch a referendum without Beijing's approval.
"When some people promote the so-called "five-district referendum movement," challenging the Hong Kong constitution and the decision on democratic reform by the standing committee of the National People's Congress, it will only cause dispute," the Chinese government's Hong Kong and Macau affairs office said in statement carried by the official Xinhua News Agency.
"We express our serious concern," the statement said.
Organizers of the resignation plan responded by saying China forced their hand by delaying full democracy in Hong Kong.
"The reason we launched the five-district referendum is the central government has stalled the pace of democratization in Hong Kong," said Andrew To, vice chairman of the League of Social Democrats.
Civic Party chairwoman, legislator Audrey Eu, said the two parties are acting legally because there are no laws banning their lawmakers from resigning at the same time.
"Our five-district referendum movement is constitutional, legal and reasonable," Eu said.