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Stress on politics 'takes toll on economy'
By Tonny Chan (China Daily HK Edition)
Updated: 2004-06-07 07:59

Hong Kong people in general care more about the economy than democracy, local deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC) Maria Tam said yesterday.

Speaking at a seminar on political development in the SAR, Tam said the development of democracy appeared to have picked up at a faster pace than the economy in the past six years and, as a result, the economy suffered.

"Sadly, I have read news reports about people committing suicide for financial reasons. But I haven't seen one (report on a suicide) for democracy," Tam told the audience at the Peninsula Junior Chamber seminar.

"It's important for the SAR to preserve its capitalistic economy so that its development is not affected," she said.

When asked to comment on her NPC colleague Ng Hong Man's call for Beijing to let democratic legislators visit the mainland to ease the tensions between the two sides on political development, Tam said, "It's good to have communication but this must not be unilateral."

Citing media reports that there had been contacts between the central government and the "pro-democracy" camp in Hong Kong, she pointed out that questions were yet to be answered: "Is the Basic Law properly understood? Do they abide by the Basic Law?"

While dialogue on politics should continue, the community should concentrate more on the economy for the time being for "the economy changes quickly and required us to pay more energy to it."

Speaking at another public function, Ng said permitting democratic legislators to visit the mainland could help ease antagonistic sentiments in society.

Yeung Sum, chairman of the Democratic Party, responded that the party was willing to have dialogue with the central government and, if invited, they would be glad to meet mainland officials.

Timothy Wong Ka-ying, director of the Telephone Survey Research Laboratory of the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, said he would be pleased to see the central government and the Democratic Party show goodwill to each other.

"This is a positive appeal," Wong said of Ng's remarks.

Admitting Beijing may have its own considerations, he said the Democratic Party should tone down its opposition role and co-operate on some policy areas.

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