Hong Kong protests as Leung takes helm
By Kelvin Chan ,AP
July 2, 2012, 12:09 am TWN
HONG KONG -- A pro-democracy heckler interrupted a speech by Chinese President Hu Jintao at the swearing-in of Hong Kong's new leader Sunday and tens of thousands of residents marched to protest Chinese rule on the 15th anniversary of the Asian financial hub's return to Beijing's control.
The outpouring of discontent underscored rising tensions between the Communist mainland and the vibrant city of 7 million that was returned to China in 1997 after more than a century of British colonial rule. While much of the discontent revolves around growing economic inequality and stunted democratic development, Hong Kongers are also upset over what they see as arrogant Chinese behavior — wealthy mainlanders taking over retail outlets during flashy Hong Kong shopping trips, for example, or even the choice of language during Sunday's swearing-in ceremony, Beijing-accented Mandarin instead of the Cantonese dialect spoken locally.
In the ceremony, self-made millionaire Leung Chun-ying (梁振英), 57, became Hong Kong's third chief executive after Donald Tsang and Tung Chee-hwa. He has promised to address Hong Kongers' economic needs, including skyrocketing housing prices, which many blame on deep-pocketed mainland apartment buyers.
A demonstrator who tried to interrupt Hu as he began his address was bundled away by security officials. The man, one of the guests invited to the inauguration, waved a small flag and yelled slogans calling for China's leaders to condemn the brutal June 4, 1989, crackdown on protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
He also called for an end to one-party rule in China. Hu took no notice and continued to read his speech, but the incident marred what was supposed to be a carefully orchestrated visit emphasizing strengthened ties between Hong Kong and mainland China.
Leung, a police officer's son, replaces career bureaucrat Tsang, who took office in 2005 and is barred from another term.
Leung was chosen as chief executive in March, winning 689 votes from a 1,200-seat committee of business elites who mostly voted according to Beijing's wishes. Hong Kong's 3.4 million registered voters, who can vote for neighborhood councilors and half of all lawmakers, had no say.