Thursday, May 23, 2013
The Associated Press
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.
Leung Chun-ying and his wife, Regina
THge Associated Press
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, 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, 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 had no say.
In midafternoon, tens of thousands of protesters began marching toward the newly built government headquarters complex on Hong Kong Island in sweltering heat, beating drums and waving British colonial flags in a gesture of nostalgia for an era during which democratic rights were limited but the rule of law was firmly in place.
There was occasional tension with the thousands of police officers deployed to maintain order, but by and large the event went off peacefully.