Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa has been sworn in for a second term at a ceremony marking the fifth anniversary of Chinese rule. The former British Colony reverted to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 and has since been governed under a "one country, two systems" policy which allows the territory to maintain its many freedoms and rule of law. The celebrations are low key due to economic problems and concerns that Hong Kong's autonomy from China is being slowly eroded.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin stood watching solemnly on Monday as Hong Kong's leader, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, was sworn in for a second five-year term, along with his 14 cabinet members.
In his oath Mr. Tung pledged to uphold the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini constitution, and be accountable to China's central government in Beijing. Mr. Tung then turned his attention to a room of guests made up of supporters, dignitaries, business leaders and a heavily guarded media.
His speech focused mainly on Hong Kong's economic woes. The territory is suffering through its second recession since Britain relinquished its former colony to China five years ago. "Fellow citizens I fully appreciate that after some 30 years of growth it is very difficult for us to accept the current economic stagnation continued deflation, rising unemployment, falling salaries and wages and a sizable budget deficit. So in a nutshell, the Hong Kong economy needs restructuring," he said.
Although not popularly elected, Mr. Tung went on to thank Hong Kong people for their support. However, public opinion polls show the chief executive has an approval rating of only 30 percent.
President Jiang also addressed the Hong Kong people on Monday. He congratulated Mr. Tung on successfully implementing the "one country, two systems" policy, which allows Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy. "Facts have shown convincingly that 'one country two system' is entirely workable, that Mr. Tung Chee-hwa and the SAR government under his leadership have the talent and the ability to sit on top of complicated situation and that Hong Kong people are fully capable of administering Hong Kong successfully," he said.
Two blocks from the convention center ceremonies, pro-democracy demonstrators, protesting a visit by the Chinese president, scuffled briefly with police. A handful of Falun Gong practitioners held a peaceful sit-in to protest China's ban on the meditation group.
While the protests were small, there has been lots of media attention to civil rights issues and the progress of democracy here in Hong Kong. In recent months, Falun Gong members have been restricted in their public demonstrations and there is talk that Mr. Tung will push a new anti-subversion law that critics say could stifle any dissent that could upset China. There has also been indefinite delays on implementing full direct elections.