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Hong Kong Opposition Calls for Chief Executive's Resignation

Opponents of Hong Kong's Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa say they are pleased by his delay of controversial anti-subversion laws. But, many people are still not happy with Mr. Tung's leadership and have called for his resignation.

Many lawmakers were taken by surprise by Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa's decision to postpone a vote on the anti-subversion legislation.

The final vote was set for Wednesday, but it has been indefinitely delayed.

A number of Mr. Tung's opponents see the reversal as a victory, but also say it has weakened further his leadership.

Labor leader Lee Chuck Yan of the pro-democracy Frontier party says Mr. Tung failed to listen to the people about the subversion laws in the first place and is therefore an unsuitable leader.

Mr. Lee helped organize a march by half a million people to protest the laws last week. He has withdrawn plans for a demonstration outside the legislature during Wednesday's vote.

Opponents fear the legislation will lead to repression of dissident viewpoints and undermine Hong Kong's freedoms of expression, religion, and assembly.

But some protesters last week also called for Mr. Tung's resignation. Many in the community are frustrated by Hong Kong's long economic slump, rising unemployment and the government's handling of such issues as education reform.

Political scientist Joseph Cheng at Hong Kong's Baptist University says criticism from some lawmakers means that Mr. Tung's retreat has also made him appear weak in the eyes of his supporters.

"It certainly shows Mr. Tung has misjudged the situation," he said. "In the process he has shown that not only has he ignored the public opinion in Hong Kong, he is fast losing the support and confidence of the Chinese leadership. And under such circumstances, his administration is in serious difficulty."

Mr. Tung sought to push the bill forward by softening some controversial sections on Saturday. He promised to delete provisions relating to police powers of search and banning groups with ties to organizations outlawed in China. He also introduced amendments to better protect the media.

But many media, religious and labor groups said they needed more time to review the amendments, and called for the vote to be delayed. Hong Kong's constitution requires it to introduce the new laws to protect national security.

Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty in July 1997, after more than 150 years of British rule. Under the terms of the reversion, Hong Kong retains its British-style legal system, as well as freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China.