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 British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid