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Pop star Leon Lai campaigns for HK's go-slow democracy plan
2005-12-20 02:38:48 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

HONG KONG, Dec 20 (AP) -- Pop star Leon Lai's latest sales pitch isn't for luxury watches or a fashion line -- it's aimed at selling his fellow Hong Kongers on the slow boat to full democracy.

Lai has appeared in a Hong Kong government television ad urging the public to support a gradual political reform package that expands the territory's 800-member leader selection panel and legislature -- rather than push for faster reform.

"Face the situation with courage and take this one step first," Lai says into the camera. "With the approval of the political reform package, it will lead to wider public participation in politics," he adds.

In his ad, Lai is paired up with a doctor and a school principal.

Another ad features veteran Hong Kong entertainer Liza Wang. "In drama, one can be ruthless. But in the real world, we have to heed the mainstream opinion of the public," Wang says.

The Chinese-language celebrity ads come just before what's expected to be a tight legislative vote on the democratic reform proposal. Hong Kong's political opposition doesn't think the package is democratic enough. Tens of thousands marched against the reform plan two weeks ago.

It wasn't immediately clear when the ads started running and how frequently they air. The government did not immediately respond to a reporter's questions.

The government has pulled out all stops trying to sell the reform package, with leader Donald Tsang also taping a rare television address urging locals to support it.

Lai's ad also marks a rare venture into politics for a Hong Kong celebrity.

Hong Kong, a former British colony returned to China in 1997, has never enjoyed the right to fill all political offices by election under either ruler. Its current constitution sets full democracy as an eventual goal, but gives no timetable.

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