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New Hong Kong Leader Selected Without Contest


Hong Kong has a new leader, Donald Tsang. As expected, he tied up so much support on the Beijing-selected election committee during the nominating process that no formal vote was needed.

The election was over before the votes were even cast. On Thursday, career civil servant Donald Tsang effectively became Hong Kong's new chief executive, after securing the endorsement of about 80 percent of the 800-member election committee.

The committee members, selected by the Chinese government, were scheduled to cast their votes on July 10. But with such a big lead, the ballot is considered unnecessary. Mr. Tsang's nearest challenger - Democratic Party head Lee Wing-tat quickly conceded defeat. Mr. Tsang is expected to be sworn in in Beijing next week.

Mr. Tsang previously held the number-two slot in the Hong Kong administration. He was named acting chief executive last March, when his predecessor, Tung Chee-hwa, was eased out by Beijing after a turbulent and unpopular seven years in office.

Mr. Tung, a wealthy industrialist, came under heavy criticism for allegedly favoring big business, and for being out of touch with ordinary Hong Kong residents and their problems.

Mr. Tsang - more approachable and more politically experienced than Mr. Tung - promised to do his best to reach out to the Hong Kong people. "My whole election campaign was geared only partially to the electors, but mostly to the people of Hong Kong. I've been coming out, I've been talking to the people, and this is not the end, this is only the beginning," he said.

Mr. Tsang was selected to replace Mr. Tung by the Chinese government, meaning his victory in the circumscribed voting allowed in Hong Kong was a foregone conclusion.

Hong Kong's people had demanded direct elections for their leader, instead of selection by a group of mostly pro-Beijing representatives. But China rejected that idea last year.

Mr. Tung stepped down with two years remaining of his second five-year term. Mr. Tsang will serve for only the remaining two years of the vacated term.

During his campaign, Mr. Tsang has been vague on his position on major issues, including Hong Kong's transition to full democracy. Political analyst Ivan Choy of the Chinese University of Hong Kong says Mr. Tsang is likely to follow Beijing's direction on such issues. "Donald Tsang in the past always emphasized that he is a civil servant. The most important element for a civil servant is loyalty. Many in Hong Kong expect him, if there's a conflict between Beijing and Hong Kong, he would side up with Beijing authorities," he said.

Donald Tsang came from modest beginnings - selling pharmaceuticals before joining the civil service under the British colonial government, and eventually being knighted by Britain's Queen Elizabeth.

When Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, he became financial secretary, and eventually rose to the city's number-two post in 2001. He has remained popular despite the previous government's unpopularity.

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