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Hong Kong Leader Faces More Pressure to Resign

The pressure continues to mount on Hong Kong's chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa. Pro-democracy forces have been pushing for his resignation for some time, calling him incompetent and insensitive. Friends and officials of the Chinese government are now openly questioning Mr. Tung's effectiveness as well.

It is becoming increasingly clear that support in Beijing for Hong Kong's embattled chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, is wavering.

Ma Lik is a pro-China politician and a delegate to the Mainland's primary lawmaking body. He told VOA News that such top Chinese officials as former Prime Minister Zhu Rongzhi have long considered Mr. Tung indecisive.

"The Chief Executive has been famous of [being] indecisive and the administration has been famous for [being] indecisive, and that was [former] Premier Zhu Rongzhi's words," he said.

Mr. Tung has been accused of ignoring public opinion. His administration was criticized for its slow response to the recent outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. His attempt to jam through new national security laws were seen by many as a threat to the freedoms Hong Kong has long enjoyed.

The depth of public dissatisfaction was illustrated on July 1, when half a million people took to the streets in protest. Mr. Tung belatedly made major changes to the bill, but was then forced to postpone a vote indefinitely after one of his strongest supporters quit the cabinet.

On Saturday, a local English language newspaper quoted an official from the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong as saying Mr. Tung lacks judgment.

Mr. Ma says such comments are not surprising.

"Beijing will still support Tung and they like him to stay on because that will make Hong Kong stable," said Mr. Ma. "But Beijing and people in Hong Kong know Tung has shortcomings."

One prominent Hong Kong academic with pro-China leanings did not predict Mr. Tung's resignation, but did say Mr. Tung should consider inviting members of the pro-democracy camp, his arch foes, to join his cabinet.

Professor Albert Chen is the Dean of Hong Kong University's Faculty of Law. He supports the national security legislation, but now says Mr. Tung should have paid better attention to public opinion when drafting the bill.

"I now understand the process of legislation is in fact very unsatisfactory," he said. "And that has generated most of the anxieties and dissatisfaction on the part of the people."

Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 after more than 150 years of British rule. Mr. Tung was hand-picked by Beijing to run the post-colonial government, and recently celebrated six years in office.