China parliament head warns of western-style democracy for Hong Kong

The head of China's parliament warned on Thursday that importing western-style democracy for a planned direct election in Hong Kong in 2017 could lead to "disastrous" results, a delegate who attended the closed-door meeting said.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with wide-ranging autonomy, an independent judiciary and relatively free press under the formula of "one country, two systems" - along with an undated promise of full democracy, an issue never broached by the British during 150 years of colonial rule.

China has agreed to let Hong Kong elect its next leader in 2017 in what will be the most far-reaching version of democracy on Chinese soil. Specific arrangements, however, have yet to be decided including, crucially, whether public nominations of candidates including opposition democrats will be allowed.

In a sign of Beijing's hardening stance, however, Zhang Dejiang, the head of China's parliament, or National People's Congress (“NPC”), told Hong Kong delegates attending the annual NPC meetings in Beijing that western-style democracy couldn't simply be transported to Hong Kong.

"You cannot just move or copy (the electoral system) from abroad, otherwise you might very easily find it can't adapt to the local environment and become a democracy trap... and possibly bring a disastrous result," said Ma Fung-kwok, a Hong Kong deputy to the NPC, citing comments made by Zhang in the two-hour meeting.

Contributed by Reuters News