CHINA: Guangzhou rail link gets go ahead, sparking protests
The city's lawmakers voted to approve funding for the project late on Saturday despite months of debate and festering bitterness at the government's proposed $8.6 billion rail link which critics say is ill-conceived, over-priced and being bulldozed through with minimal publi Read more
The city's lawmakers voted to approve funding for the project late on Saturday despite months of debate and festering bitterness at the government's proposed $8.6 billion rail link which critics say is ill-conceived, over-priced and being bulldozed through with minimal public consultation.
The final vote, 31 to 21 in favour of the rail link, sparked frenzied scenes outside, as thousands of mostly young protesters tussled with hundreds of police and riot police.
Pepper spray was used on those attempting to breach police lines into the legislature, all while many others ringed the building to prevent officials and lawmakers from leaving.
Among those trapped in their cars were transport secretary Eva Cheng who has spearheaded the HK$66.9 billion rail link, with police forming a protective ring around her vehicle while trying to clear a path for her to leave.
"When the authority made contact with Tsoi Yuen Village, the villagers were not consulted if they would want to move out or how they would be affected. Instead, they offered A, B or C compensation plans to the villagers. This is not a real consultation but a fake one," said protester Charlotte Cho.
The railway linking Hong Kong to the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou has been championed by officials as a vital infrastructure project that could bring upwards of HK$87 billion in economic benefits over 50 years by vastly cutting travel times to Chinese cities and attracting more Chinese visitors.
But public bitterness has grown over the planned razing of a village and rural swathes to make way for the project, along with growing cost estimates that now make the rail link one of the most expensive in the world on a per kilometer basis.
The government's insistence on ploughing ahead with the railway has also catalysed a fresh push for full democracy among a new generation of young activists in the city, who are demanding a more accountable and people-based government.
Hong Kong, a former British colony that switched to Chinese rule in 1997, is constitutionally obliged to realise full democracy as an ultimate aim. But the slow pace of reforms have frustrated opposition democrats.
A group of five democratic lawmakers plan to resign from the legislature later this month, in a radical bid to force a "de facto referendum" on democracy that has been described as illegal by Beijing. Close
|Category:||Domestic Politics Transport|
|Sound:||NATURAL WITH CANTONSE SPEECH|
|Syndication:||6114AS CHINA-RAIL PROTEST @ Jan 16|
|Restrictions:||Information for Reuters subscribers only: NONE|
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HONG KONG, CHINA (JANUARY 16, 2010) (REUTERS)
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