Thousands Protest Newly Sworn-in Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung
July 05, 2012
By: Franz Essig | Printer Friendly
On July 1, as Chinese President Hu Jintao swore in Hong Kong’s new chief executive Leung Chun-Ying, pro-democracy protestors marched through the streets. Organizers estimated that the number of demonstrators grew from 55,000 to almost 400,000 over the course of the annual march. On July 3, on his second day in office, Leung was chased away from a town hall meeting by protestors. Leung had hoped to meet residents and discuss Hong Kong’s current issues in a public forum. On July 5, the chairman of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party filed two legal challenges against the legitimacy of Leung’s appointment.
Protestors were fearful that Leung’s close ties to the Chinese Communist Party would lead him to cut back the civil liberties that Hong Kong’s residents enjoy. Leung has been referred to as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” by democracy advocates in Hong Kong. Leung has promised to “uphold the core values of Hong Kong and protect the freedom and rights of the people.” However, critics cite his use of Beijing Mandarin instead of the local Cantonese in his speech to suggest that he is working for the Beijing government. Earlier, a protestor had interrupted President Hu’s speech during the swearing-in ceremony, calling for the end of the one-party system in the mainland and referring to the 1989 protests in Tiananmen square that were suppressed by the government.
The demonstrations underscored rising tensions between the city and mainland China. Protestors blamed China for Hong Kong’s soaring housing prices and income inequality. Furthermore, many in Hong Kong see themselves as fundamentally different from the mainlanders due to their British-influenced education and democratic values.
Iris Wong, a Hong Kong resident who attended the protest, told the New York Times that she believed that that the city’s main problem was the loss of democracy. “If we had a democracy and political system that was not dominated by a few wealthy people, we could begin to address our economic problems,” she said.
Recently, the Hong Kong government announced that the economy has the worst income disparity between the rich and poor in Asia, and has reached its highest point in four decades. Property prices have also skyrocketed, which many in Hong Kong blame on wealthy mainland Chinese buying up apartments.
The July 1 march is an annual event which acts as a forum for Hong Kong natives to demand democracy and civil liberties. Marches have occurred every year since the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from the British to China. The largest demonstration occurred in 2003, when the government of Hong Kong attempted to enact a strong anti-subversion law and 500,000 participated in protests, eventually leading to the shelving of the proposed law. This year’s march was the largest since.
Also present in the rallies were mainland Chinese activists protesting the confiscation of their lands for government funded real-estate projects. Demonstrations are illegal outside of Hong Kong, and many were surprised to see mainlanders protest so openly.
Leung was voted into office by Hong Kong’s 1200-member Election Committee, which is primarily made up of business elites who vote for Beijing’s interests. Leung is the son of a police officer and is a self-made millionaire who worked his way to the top of a property consultancy firm. His predecessor is career bureaucrat Donald Tsang, who left office as a result of a number of scandals in which he allegedly accepted favors from wealthy businessmen.
For previous news on China see:
Hong Kong Election Committee Selects Leung as Chief Executive
Associated Press (via Huffington Post) - Hong Kong Democracy Rally Draws Thousands
Associated Press (via Huffington Post) – Leung Chun-Ying Sworn In As Hong Kong’s New Leader
CNN – New Hong Kong Leader Chased From Town Hall Meeting
New York Times – Protestors March As New Hong Kong Leader Is Sworn In