News / Asia

Mass Protest Challenges New Hong Kong Leader

Former Hong Kong Chief Executives Tung Chee-hwa (front L), Donald Tsang (front R), new Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (front 2nd L), his wife during a ceremony in Hong Kong, July 1, 2012.Former Hong Kong Chief Executives Tung Chee-hwa (front L), Donald Tsang (front R), new Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (front 2nd L), his wife during a ceremony in Hong Kong, July 1, 2012.
x
Former Hong Kong Chief Executives Tung Chee-hwa (front L), Donald Tsang (front R), new Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (front 2nd L), his wife during a ceremony in Hong Kong, July 1, 2012.
Former Hong Kong Chief Executives Tung Chee-hwa (front L), Donald Tsang (front R), new Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (front 2nd L), his wife during a ceremony in Hong Kong, July 1, 2012.
Hong Kong's new leader, Leung Chun-ying, has had a turbulent start to his five-year term, with more than 100,000 people joining an anti-government rally just hours after he took office. The mass demonstration is one of several major problems facing Leung as he tries to build his administration.

Hong Kong's annual July 1 protest march from the city's Victoria Park to the government headquarters was the biggest of its kind in the semi-autonomous Chinese region since 2004.

Local academics said Sunday's rally had a turnout of about 100,000 to 120,000 people. Many protesters called for the resignation of Leung Chun-ying, who had just been sworn in as Hong Kong's chief executive earlier in the day.

The 57-year-old wealthy businessman and former government official was selected for the city's top job in March by a 1,200-member committee mostly loyal to the Chinese government.

  • Hong Kong pro-democracy groups stage a large scale protest parade on June 30, 2012 while Chinese president Hu Jintao was in Hong Kong for a 3 day visit. (All images by Iris Tong for VOA)
  • Protesters try to push down the heavy blocks. Police have pepper spray ready.
  • Parade pass through narrow streets.
  • Police are also up on the blocks to take shots of the protest scene.
  • Protest slogan satirizes President Hu Jintao.
  • Protesters confront police.
  • Police ready to use more powerful pepper sprayers.
  • Police expand their block area.
  • A senior protester faces off with police.
  • Police show their warning.
  • Some protesters climb up on large blocks.
  • Police guarding the protest area.
  • Journalists wear “press freedom” t-shirts while on the job.
  • Pro-democracy groups estimate more than 400 thousand people took part in Hong Kong’s July 1st protest parades, the 3rd highest since 2003 and 2004.
  • Hong Kong netizens use a large poster to satirize the new Hong Kong chief.

Protesters: Leung Doesn't Represent Us

Emily Lau is a deputy leader of Hong Kong's Democratic Party and a member of the Legislative Council, or Legco. Speaking to VOA by phone a day after joining the march, she said protesters were upset because they fear Leung will not represent their interests.

"They don't like him, they think that he is just going to be a puppet of Beijing, and so "one country, two systems" - this policy promised to Hong Kong by the elder [Chinese] statesman Deng Xiaoping - is more or less in tatters," Lau said. "And people are afraid that with more and more interference by the central government, Hong Kong will lose its high degree of autonomy and the freedoms, the rule of law, civil liberties."

Luxury Home Scandal Triggers Anger

Marchers also were angered by Leung's acknowledgment last month that illegal modifications were made to his luxury home. He apologized publicly for the illicit structure and removed it, but the pro-democracy lawmaker said doubts remain about his honesty.

"He had originally said that he did not build it but now it turned out that maybe he did, so people are calling him a liar," Lau said. "And that is very, very bad. So I don't know how he is going to be able to put that behind him. I can't see a better way than to have an investigation by someone who is truly independent and respected and then to come out with a report. Otherwise, people are going to ask him questions every day and he would be giving little bits here and little bits there, so I just don't see how the government can function."

Observers said Sunday's big march also was a protest against the suspicious death of veteran pro-democracy activist Li Wangyang in central China last month, an incident that Beijing called an accident.

Concerns About Mainland Influence

Michael DeGolyer is a professor of government at Hong Kong Baptist University. He told VOA that many protesters believe Chinese authorities killed the activist and lied about it. They worry about the implications for Hong Kong.

"There's quite a concern about corruption and about lying and about Hong Kong becoming like the mainland," DeGolyer said. "And there is a lot of fear that CY Leung will govern more like the mainland than along the lines of traditional Hong Kong values."

DeGolyer said other factors driving people to protest included Hong Kong's huge gap between the rich and poor, and middle class anger about salaries remaining stagnant for years despite rising inflation.

Leung Pledges to Listen 'Seriously'

In comments to reporters Monday, Leung promised to listen "seriously and humbly" to the people's demands and try to fulfill them.

But protesters heckled the new leader as he tried to meet with residents at a public forum later in the day, triggering a chaotic scene that forced police to escort him away.

In another challenge to Leung, pro-democracy parties who led the July 1 march are seeking to win more Legco seats in a September 9 election, to enable them to veto government policies. Pro-establishment lawmakers who dominate the outgoing assembly also have been plagued by infighting between supporters of Leung and backers of his main rival in March's chief executive contest.

Two Months to Act Before Election

DeGolyer said Leung can overcome the challenges by acting quickly.

"If he acts between now and the election in September in ways that shore up his voiced support for the Basic Law and some of the values of Hong Kong; if he makes sure that he is clean and his officials are clean in terms of various rule-keeping, as officials are expected to anywhere, then he should be able to recover from this."

Legco will be expanded from 60 to 70 seats in the upcoming election, with half of the seats being directly elected and most of the others being selected by special interest groups that tend to side with the establishment.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs