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Beijing Rubber Stamps Tsang's Leadership Of Hong Kong

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

03 April 2007

As expected, China's State Council has endorsed Chief Executive Donald Tsang's appointment as the Third-term Chief Executive of Hong Kong. Premier Wen is expected to present Tsang with the instrument of appointment in Beijing this coming Sunday.

In a statement issued Monday, Tsang thanked the Central People's Government for his appointment, and said it was an honour for him to continue to lead the Hong Kong Government and promote the city's continued development.

"I have a huge mission," Tsang declared. "In the next five years, I would strive to lead the SAR Government in a pragmatic manner and to bring Hong Kong's development to a new height. I shall not fail the trust the CPG and the people of Hong Kong have placed in me."

"During the election campaign in the past two months, I solicited views from members of the Election Committee, and I reached out to people from all walks of life, understanding their needs and expectations," he added. "These exchanges will, I am sure, help the Administration's future policy formulation."

"Nobody alone can create a better Hong Kong. I hope you can join me in working towards a brighter future for all," his statement concluded.

Currently, the chief executive of Hong Kong is selected by an 800-strong electoral committee in Beijing. The 60 member Hong Kong Legislative Council (Legco) is elected every 4 years under a complex weighted voting arrangement with input from a panel of industry bodies, professional sectors and other special interest groups.

There has been increasing pressure on the Hong Kong leadership to democratise the appointment of the territory's leader and the Legco, but while Tsang has made democratic noises, he has expressed the view that full democracy in Hong Kong is very much a long-term goal.

Last year, Tsang's package of political reform proposals, which would have doubled the size of the Election Committee that will select the chief executive to 1,600 and would have added 10 seats to the Legco, were rejected as pro-democracy lawmakers called for measures that involved less direct political appointments.

Tsang took over as chief executive in 2005 after incumbent Tung chwee-hwa unexpectedly stepped down on grounds of ill-health, initially to serve out the remaining two years of Tung's term. He has presided over a period of strong economic growth in that time and is widely seen as a safe pair of hands on the tiller of government in the SAR, so his reappointment as Chief Executive was a matter of formality.

Tsang has pledged to maintain Hong Kong's low-tax reputation through "gradual" reductions in both the rate of corporate and individual income tax, although he has not detailed how and when these cuts will take place.

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