China condemns U.S. support for full democracy in Hong Kong

China on Thursday criticized Washington's expression of support for full democracy in Hong Kong as unwanted meddling, after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with the territory's best known pro-democracy lawmaker. Hong Kong will eventually be able to directly elect its own chief executive, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang, although he gave no timetable.

Activists in Hong Kong have been pressing for faster progress. The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and retains many Western-style freedoms. But its leader is indirectly elected, and China has rejected calls to quickly allow full democracy. Martin Lee, a Hong Kong opposition leader denounced by China as a traitor for a previous trip abroad, met with Rice in Washington on Tuesday.

"The Hong Kong issue is China's internal affair, and we oppose any foreign intervention," Qin said at a regular news briefing.

Beijing supports "progressive development of (Hong Kong's) political system, which will in the end reach the goal of selecting the chief executive and lawmakers through general elections," Qin said. Beijing will also seek to create "positive conditions" for Hong Kong's political reforms, he added, without elaborating. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Rice "did underline our very strong support for democracy and universal suffrage in Hong Kong. ... The people of Hong Kong should determine the pace and scope of political reform."

Hong Kong's current leader was chosen by an 800-member committee partial to Beijing. Half of the 60 sitting lawmakers were elected, and the rest were picked by special interest groups, reports the AP. I.L.

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