Bloomberg News

Xi Jinping Backs HK Chief Leung Amid Demands He Quit

December 20, 2012

China’s Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping gave his backing for Hong Kong’s chief executive, as opposition lawmakers called on Leung Chun-ying to resign.

Xi told Leung his team had been “progressive” and “pragmatic” since taking over, according to footage of a meeting in Beijing yesterday that was broadcast on Hong Kong’s Cable TV. The two didn’t discuss a controversy about illegal renovations made at Leung’s homes, Hong Kong’s top official said at a briefing afterward.

An uproar over the additions has seen Leung’s popularity fall and led opposition lawmakers to demand yesterday that he resign or face possible impeachment hearings. Xi may have wanted to give Leung a boost in the face of that opposition, Joseph Cheng, a political science professor at the City University of Hong Kong, said in an interview yesterday.

“We know that the Chinese authorities are not happy with the Hong Kong situation,” Cheng said before the meeting. “Given the difficult situation of C.Y. Leung, I speculate that Beijing would try to exercise restraint and avoid any unnecessary pressure on him.”

Hong Kong’s Democratic Party and its opposition allies will send a letter to Leung’s office demanding his resignation, party chairwoman Emily Lau said yesterday. Leung survived a no- confidence motion Dec. 12 over his handling of the controversy over the structures. The unauthorized building additions included a trellis, a gate that provided access to a road and a cover over a parking space.

Violating Law

If Leung refuses to resign, the lawmakers will submit a motion saying he violated the law for lying in the legislature over the construction, according to the text of the motion obtained from the Civic Party. Susana Kwong, chief information officer at the Chief Executive’s Office, said the office couldn’t immediately comment.

“The central authorities affirm your work and will continue to firmly support your governance in adherence to the law,” Xi told Leung, according to the Cable TV footage.

Hong Kong’s near-term economic outlook is “relatively weak” because of sluggish export demand, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority said this week. China has encouraged mainland-based companies to borrow in yuan in Hong Kong by selling so-called Dim Sum bonds, and designated the city as the nation’s major offshore yuan center in its latest five-year plan.

Special Attention

The Hong Kong government must pay special attention to and resolve the livelihood issues of employment, prices, housing, poverty, environment and aging, China Premier Wen Jiabao said in a meeting with Leung today.

There is great downward pressure on the economy at the present time as the international financial crisis isn’t over yet, Wen said, according to footage broadcast on Cable TV today. Leung is on a 3-day duty visit to Beijing.

Leung’s main opponent in the Hong Kong leadership race earlier this year, Henry Tang, saw his candidacy undone after he admitted he knew that his wife had built a basement with a wine cellar and movie theater without government approval.

Since Leung took over, his attempt to focus on the economy has been derailed as closer ties with China stoked concerns the city’s autonomy will be eroded, with thousands protesting in September over proposals for Chinese national education classes. The former property surveyor has also been buffeted by scrutiny from opposition lawmakers into the illegal building additions.

A lawmaker with the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Ip Kwok-him, said the allegations surrounding Leung didn’t meet the standard for impeachment, the South China Morning Post reported today.

Working Seriously

“I will take suggestions from the legislature and the society about my work seriously,” Leung said at the briefing. “I will focus on doing my job well. I will pragmatically work with the people of Hong Kong.”

The day Leung took over in July, the 15th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China, 112,000 people took to the streets to call for higher minimum wages, and protest against income disparity and human rights abuses in China.

Street protests against a proposed anti-subversion law triggered the 2005 resignation of Tung Chee-hwa, the city’s first chief executive.

Any impeachment motion by the opposition would face stiff resistance in the city’s legislature. Leung’s opponents hold about a third of seats in the body, and impeachment would require a two-thirds majority.

Leung has a popularity rating of 49.2, according to a poll from the University of Hong Kong Public Opinion Program. The poll, which sampled 1006 people and was conducted from Dec. 1 to Dec. 4, asked respondents to him on a scale of 1 to 100.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Simon Lee in Hong Kong at slee936@bloomberg.net; Aipeng Soo in Beijing at asoo4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net


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