China has rejected a proposal by Hong Kong's pro-democracy political opposition for a public referendum on full, direct elections in the territory starting in 2007.

The official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, says the government agrees with Hong Kong's number two official (Donald Tsang), who said the proposed referendum was "not practical" and a "waste of time."

Earlier this month, a member of Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's cabinet (Bernard Chan) called on China to release a timetable for introducing full, direct elections.

Pro-democracy lawmakers have demanded that Hong Kong residents be given the power to directly elect their next leader in 2007 and to choose all members of the legislature the following year (in 2008). China has ruled out direct elections.