Beijing's renewed support for embattled Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa (
"No matter how much the central government backs Tung, he is still a lame duck," said pro-democracy legislator and unionist Lee Cheuk-yan.
Tung is facing his worst political crisis since he was put in charge of Hong Kong when Britain returned this former colony to China six years ago.
A march on July 1 by a half million people who fear the anti-subversion measure will undermine civil liberties forced Tung to put it on hold. He said he will open new public consultations before his next attempt to get the measure enacted.
Chinese President Hu Jintao (
But pro-democracy lawmakers and rights activists expressed doubts yesterday that the overwhelming public opinion against the bill would change.
"People have made their views clear," opposition lawmaker and persistent Tung critic Emily Lau (劉慧卿) said yesterday.
"Even if the central government doesn't respond, the people won't keep quiet," she said.
Public sentiment toward Tung has also been soured by Hong Kong's staggering economy, and there's little economic relief in sight.
The crisis deepened last week when Tung announced the back-to-back resignations of two key Cabinet members, the security and finance secretaries.
Secretary for Security Regina Ip (葉劉淑儀) had been the chief official pushing for the anti-subversion measure. Although Ip said she stepped down for personal reasons, critics charged she had lost credibility and would be unable to lobby for the bill again.
The July 1 demonstration was the biggest in Hong Kong since 1 million people took to the streets to protest China's deadly crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy student movement on June 4, 1989. The turnout stunned Tung, who said he spent a sleepless night after watching it on television.