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New Hong Kong Leader Faces Legal Questions

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-4861409,00.html New Hong Kong Leader Faces Legal Questions Sunday March 13, 2005 4:31 AM By WILLIAM FOREMAN
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 12, 2005

      New Hong Kong Leader Faces Legal Questions

      Sunday March 13, 2005 4:31 AM


      Associated Press Writer

      HONG KONG (AP) - Hong Kong's new acting leader took
      office Saturday, facing tough questions of whether the
      leadership change was legal.

      The legal controversy began brewing two weeks ago as
      it became clear that the unpopular Tung Chee-hwa was
      preparing to quit as chief executive. The plan was to
      allow Tung's right-hand man, Donald Tsang, take over
      until a new leader was elected.

      Tung's resignation became official Saturday, marking
      Hong Kong's first leadership change since the former
      British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Tsang
      promptly announced that he would be in charge until a
      new leader was elected on July 10.

      Tsang also confirmed the fears of pro-democracy
      lawmakers by saying that the elected leader would only
      complete Tung's term by serving two years and that a
      new election would be held as scheduled in 2007.

      Pro-democracy lawmakers and the Hong Kong Bar
      Association have argued during the past week that the
      law clearly says that any elected chief executive
      serves a full five-year term. They fear that China was
      pressuring the government to twist the law for
      Beijing's purposes, endangering Hong Kong's legal
      integrity - one of the territory's strong points.

      One popular theory was that Chinese leaders want Tsang
      - a career civil servant - to serve for two years so
      they can test his loyalty. If he does well, he would
      get a five-year term. Hong Kong's leaders are picked
      by an 800-person panel dominated by pro-Beijing

      During his first news conference Saturday, Tsang noted
      the controversy. ``We understand that there are
      different views in the community,'' he said.

      Tsang added that after doing research and consulting
      with legal experts in China, the government concluded
      that the proper interpretation of the law was that the
      next elected chief executive would serve a two- year

      ``If there is any challenge at all, we will meet that
      challenge,'' he said.

      Pro-democracy lawmakers and groups have yet to
      announce if or how they might challenge the decision.

      The possible legal battle is just one of many problems
      Tsang will likely encounter. He might have to contend
      with back-stabbing Cabinet members vying for his job.

      ``If he can't carry out a major reshuffle in the
      Cabinet, can he gain other ministers' confidence and
      secure their loyalty to him?'' asked Ivan Choy, a
      political analyst at the Chinese University.

      Pro-Beijing lawmakers who have long distrusted Tsang
      because he worked for the British colonial government
      might try to thwart his policies to help their own
      chief executive hopefuls. The economy is facing
      serious competition from booming cities in southern

      But many believe Tsang is an ambitious politician
      who's up for the political fisticuffs. He was a
      policeman's son without a university degree when he
      joined the civil service in 1967 during British rule.
      He went to Harvard University in 1981 for a one-year
      master's degree in public administration.

      He was promoted to financial secretary in 1995,
      becoming the first ethnic Chinese to hold the job in
      150 years of British rule.

      In the final month of British rule, Tsang was named a
      knight of the British Empire for his work as a civil
      servant. Prince Charles did the honors of tapping his
      shoulders with a sword and hanging a medal on his

      Many thought that the knighthood marked the peak of
      Tsang's career because it raised serious doubts about
      his loyalty to the new Chinese rulers. But Tsang
      adapted well.

      Ma Ngok, a politics professor at the University of
      Science and Technology, said Tsang will likely resign
      in May to run for chief executive and won't have time
      to make many changes.

      ``He will act more like a guardian of the government.
      There will unlikely be major policy changes,'' Ma told
      Hong Kong network Cable TV.
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