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China Approves New Hong Kong Officials - 2003-08-04


Beijing has approved new financial and security secretaries for Hong Kong. Their predecessors resigned last month amid the territory's biggest political crisis since it returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

Hong Kong's embattled administration named new financial and security secretaries on Monday, after they were approved by Beijing.

The vacancies were created when two officials resigned within hours of each other on July 16. Public opinion polls showed they were the least popular ministers in an administration faced with increasingly loud calls for change.

The territory's chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, named Henry Tang as new financial secretary and Ambrose Lee as secretary for security. "I'm pleased to announce the central people's government has - on my nomination and recommendation - approved the appointment of a financial secretary and several principle officials," Mr. Tung said.

Former Secretary for Security Regina Ip cited personal reasons for her abrupt resignation. But Ms. Ip's job was to introduce a controversial security bill. She faced widespread criticism for not acknowledging fears the bill would erode the territory's civil liberties.

Mr. Tung was forced to postpone a final legislative vote on the bill, after a protest of a half-million people on July 1 - the largest demonstration in more than a decade. Beijing has said the bill is necessary for national security, so Mr. Tung said amended legislation will be reintroduced in September.

The bill's passage now lies in the hands of Ambrose Lee, who is leaving his post as the head of an anti-graft bureau to take over Ms. Ip's job.

Former Financial Secretary Antony Leung resigned amid scandal, after buying a luxury car only weeks before raising taxes on such vehicles.

New financial head Henry Tang is a wealthy businessman who must deal with Hong Kong's record unemployment, persistent deflation, and large budget deficit.

Ma Lik, a delegate to China's main lawmaking body and member of Hong Kong's largest pro-China party, said the new financial secretary is not a surprise choice. He described Henry Tang as an insider with good relationships. "I think he's appropriate. He's [got] a very good relationship with the central government, with Tung himself, because his father is a very famous businessman. They are native Shanghainese, they have close contact with [China's former leader] Zhang Zemin and other Shanghai gangs," Mr. Ma said.

Hong Kong has a separate legal, economic and administrative system from that of mainland China, but Communist Party leaders must approve the territory's leaders. Its wider civil liberties are a legacy of 150 years of British rule.