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Hong Kong Leader Unveils Cabinet - 2002-06-24


Hong Kong's leader Tung Chee-hwa has unveiled his newly formed cabinet, changing the way the territory is governed. Mr. Tung says his redesigned executive will strengthen accountability, but critics disagree and fear that Beijing will now have a greater say in Hong Kong policies.

14 new cabinet secretaries were named to replace civil servants, who currently head various government departments in Hong Kong.

Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, says the development marks the dawning of a new era of greater government accountability. "In the next five years we will be a government which is more accountable to the people of Hong Kong," he said. "Ours will be an open and enlightened and progressive government. We will be an administration, which feels the pulse of the community."

Mr. Tung says the current civil service system has little incentive to make innovative policies, given that no one has to answer for poor service and decisions and bureaucrats can only be removed in extreme cases.

But champions of democracy and human rights activists warn that since the cabinet is appointed by Mr. Tung, rather than elected by the people of Hong Kong, it will only be accountable to the chief executive who is accountable only to Beijing.

Mr. Tung, who is a shipping tycoon, is not popularly elected. He was first appointed to the post by Beijing in 1997, when the former British colony reverted to Chinese rule but was given broad autonomy. He was chosen for a second five-year term this year by a committee heavily influenced by Beijing.

Pro-democracy lawmakers tried last week to add amendments to the new cabinet system to make it more accountable to the legislature, which in part is popularly elected. But they were defeated.

The majority of the new cabinet secretaries already serve as top deputies or members of Hong Kong's executive council. But four new faces come from the private sector and Mr. Tung says they will bring new perspectives and ideas.

Critics say Mr. Tung appointed like-minded outsiders who share his political views, business interests and pro-Beijing sentiments.

Polls have shown the majority of Hong Kong people are dissatisfied with Mr. Tung's performance and he is particularly unpopular with the civil service.

The new cabinet will be sworn in July 1, the beginning of Mr. Tung's second term in office.

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