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Hong Kong Democracy Leader Asks U.S. To Do More

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WASHINGTON - The United States should do more to push forward political reforms in Hong Kong following China's takeover of the former British colony, veteran democratic leader Martin Lee said on Tuesday.

"Democracy is limping along (in Hong Kong)," said Lee, founding chair of the Democratic Party in Hong Kong, after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Lee, who is on a trip to Washington where he is due to see White House officials and lawmakers on Capitol Hill, said he had asked the United States to put more pressure on Beijing over democracy moves in Hong Kong.

He said Rice, who visited China this month, gave him a "sympathetic" hearing.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States strongly supports moves toward democracy in Hong Kong.

"The secretary did underline our very strong support for democracy and universal suffrage in Hong Kong," said McCormack.

"The secretary emphasized our conviction that the people of Hong Kong should determine the pace and scope of political reform in accordance with the Basic Law."

Britain ended more than 150 years of colonial rule of Hong Kong on July 1, 1997 and the territory has since been ruled by China under a "one country, two systems" formula.

Despite widespread calls for democracy, the Communist leadership in Beijing has been unwilling to let the people of Hong Kong decide for themselves when this should come.

Hong Kong democracy supporters have called for a protest march to demand full democracy on Dec. 4, raising the possibility of a repeat of a mammoth protest two years ago that rattled the leadership in Beijing.

Lee, a long-time critic of China's policy toward Hong Kong, said he had invited Rice to visit the territory and see for herself what was happening there.

Asked whether such a trip might take place even if it angered Beijing, McCormack pointed out that U.S. officials frequently visited Hong Kong.

"In terms of the secretary's travel schedule, we'll keep you updated on that," he said.

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