Wed, Mar 30, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Interim leader visits China

AP , HONG KONG

Acting Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang (曾蔭權), considered a strong candidate to become the territory's next chief executive, briefed a Chinese official and paid his respects to a Catholic saint during his first trip to China since taking office, a spokesman said yesterday.

Tsang met with Liao Hui (廖輝), the director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office at China's State Council, for one hour Monday morning in Shenzhen, a southern Chinese city that borders Hong Kong, said Tsang's spokesman, Donald Chen.

Chen described the meeting as unscheduled. He said Tsang was vacationing in the city of Jiangmen over the weekend when he learned Liao was in nearby Shenzhen, so the two decided to meet.

Tsang told Liao that Hong Kong's government had been operating smoothly since he replaced his former boss, Tung Chee-hwa (董建華), who resigned earlier this month, Chen said.

An 800-member committee loyal to Beijing will choose Hong Kong's new leader on July 10 and Tsang is thought to be China's No. 1 choice for the job.

Chen said Tsang and Liao did not discuss Beijing's rumored preference for him. No one has announced their candidacy in the leadership race so far.

China's interest in Tsang has surprised some because he was a career civil servant in the administration when Hong Kong was still a British colony, and he was knighted for his service. Some analysts say Beijing still has doubts about his loyalty.

Tsang, a devout Roman Catholic, also visited the grave of Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier on the island of Shangchuan, his spokesman said, highlighting his Western influences.

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