Tue, Oct 07, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Pressure builds on Hong Kong leader to give up his post

REUTERS , HONG KONG

A coalition of pro-democracy politicians and activists took out a full-page advertisement in a Hong Kong newspaper yesterday demanding that deeply unpopular Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華) resign.

"Mr. Tung, the wish of Hong Kong people ... is that you resign, resign, resign ... all your policies ... have ended in disasters," said the strongly worded advertisement by the Anti-Tung Solidarity movement in the independent Apple Daily.

"For a person so unpopular, hasty and stupid like yourself to remain in this position is the biggest reason for Hong Kong's instability," the group said.

The group was formed shortly after more than half a million people took to the streets on July 1 to protest against Tung's leadership and to demand more democracy in the former British colony, which reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.

The massive demonstration of people power sparked the worst political crisis in Hong Kong in years, split the territory's ruling elite and rattled leaders in Beijing.

Tung, whom Beijing hand-picked to run Hong Kong, is widely blamed in the city for a string of policy blunders, years of economic malaise and stubbornly high unemployment.

Veteran pro-democracy lawmaker Emily Lau (劉慧卿) is to move a motion in the legislature tomorrow to call for Tung's resignation.

Although the non-binding motion is likely to be voted down by the pro-government majority in the chamber, Lau said it reflected people's wishes.

"He has done nothing to show he is going to improve his governance. On political reforms there is no response," Lau said.

Tung's popularity ratings appear to have improved in recent weeks as the economy shows signs of reviving, fuelled in large part by Beijing. Since the big July protest, China has announced a series of moves aimed at propping up the ailing economy and appeasing public unrest.

But Tung's evasiveness over demands for more democracy continues to annoy many people in the territory. He also faces mounting pressure for a renewed probe into the SARS epidemic, which killed about 300 people in the territory and battered its tourism industry.

An expert panel commissioned by the government said last week that there had been serious shortcomings in its handling of the outbreak but did not single anyone out for blame. Many doctors fear the virus will re-emerge this winter and believe the government is ill-prepared.

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