Fri, Feb 02, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Tsang confirms he will seek second term as HK chief

AFP , HONG KONG

Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang (曾蔭權) confirmed yesterday he would seek a second term, setting up the first contested leadership race since the former British colony reunited with China 10 years ago.

China has given Tsang its clear backing, meaning his return as chief executive is all but assured when the 800 electors, most of them China loyalists, cast their ballots on March 10.

But in announcing his re-election bid yesterday, the 62-year-old vowed to tackle the territory's thorniest political dispute -- when, if ever, its seven million people will be allowed to directly choose their leaders themselves.

"In my manifesto I have outlined not only my target to implement universal suffrage for the election of the chief executive," said Tsang, wearing his trademark bow tie.

"I have proposed that by the middle of this year, we will bring the discussion on this question to a close," he said with wife Salina by his side, in front of a backdrop with his campaign slogan: "I'll Get The Job Done."

Tsang's opponent, pro-democracy Legislator Alan Leong (梁家傑), has already conceded that he will lose the election but says he will fight the campaign to draw Tsang into public debate and get Hong Kongers involved.

"I'm quite happy to join the debate," said Tsang, adding that he would take to the campaign trail over the next month to talk to the people. "Although they will not be among the 800 voters, their support is still important to me."

Under the post-colonial Constitution established after Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, the territory's leaders should eventually be elected under universal suffrage.

But the timing of that switch has been a sticking point in the city's political debate. Democrats have pushed for a swift transition but the Chinese government has so far resisted sudden change.

As Beijing's preferred candidate, Tsang is likely to win the poll easily. The support of the Communist leadership is as important as the backing of Election Committee members, most of whom are China loyalists.

But Leong's candidacy was possible because of the election in November of an unexpectedly large number of pro-democracy candidates in voting for seats on the committee.

Meanwhile Tsang has come under fire, including from a nervous business community wary that the city's laissez-faire economic policies could be tightened by Beijing.

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