Beijing has picked as Hong Kong’s new leader a bureaucrat facing a storm of criticism over heavy-handed security imposed during a visit by China’s vice premier, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) said yesterday.
Hong Kong Chief Secretary Henry Tang (唐英年) saw his ratings plummet after police used pepper spray to break up a largely peaceful protest rally, arresting 231 people, during Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang’s (李克強) trip last month.
Tang dismissed as “complete rubbish” criticism that the security arrangements violated human rights.
The SCMP quoted a source close to senior Chinese officials as saying Tang, 58, would top other candidates vying to succeed Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang (曾蔭權), whose term ends next year.
Tang, who is Tsang’s second-in-command, joined the government in 2002 as commerce minister, moving up the ranks to become financial secretary and then chief secretary in 2007.
“The decision was made on the recommendation of the [Chinese] Communist Party’s leading group on Hong Kong and Macau affairs,” the paper quoted the source as saying. “The central government prefers Tang as the next chief executive because he enjoys support from most civil servants.”
Tang would be Hong Kong’s third post-handover leader. His reported appointment comes after critics also called for the ouster of Hong Kong’s police chief, claiming authorities used excessive force to keep protesters away from Li, who is himself scheduled to be China’s next premier.
Rights groups in Hong Kong have accused police of violating the right to assembly in the incident. In recent years activists have expressed concerns over the territory’s lower tolerance of dissent, including the denial of entry to high-profile critics of China.