Friday 21 July 2017

Hong Kong leader will not run for another term

Leung Chun-ying cited unspecified family reasons for his decision (AP)
Leung Chun-ying cited unspecified family reasons for his decision (AP)

Hong Kong's Beijing-backed leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, has said he will not run again for the job after his current term ends next year.

Mr Leung, who was chosen by a panel of Beijing-friendly tycoons and other Hong Kong elites, made the surprise announcement on Friday, citing unspecified family reasons.

He is deeply unpopular in Hong Kong because of the hard-line stance his government has taken against pro-democracy activists.

Mr Leung said he would step aside after his five-year term ends next June.

"If I run for the next term of the chief executive, I'm afraid my family will come under unbearable pressure in the coming months," he told reporters. "I must protect them."

Hong Kong's Apple Daily newspaper reported earlier in the day that one of his daughters has been in hospital for a month.

"As a father, as a husband, I have a responsibility," said Mr Leung, who has two other children.

"In my family, my children only have one father, my wife only has one husband," he said, adding he did not want to say more publicly.

His popularity has steadily dwindled since he took office and his approval rating stood at 23% in late November, according to Hong Kong University pollsters.

His government has filed legal challenges against six recently elected pro-democracy politicians in an attempt to disqualify them after they altered their oaths of office in apparent protests against China.

Last month, two of those politicians, who advocate separatism for the specially administered Chinese region, lost their cases.

In 2014, Mr Leung refused to negotiate with student pro-democracy activists who led protests occupying the streets of the Asian financial hub for nearly three months.

The protesters demanded changes to the system that put Mr Leung in office, but authorities did not back down.

Police fired dozens of tear gas canisters in an attempt to disperse them, in a move that drew world headlines.

Mr Leung said he had Beijing's full support and he would give his backing to whoever became Hong Kong's next leader.

In Beijing, the cabinet's Hong Kong and Macau affairs office issued a statement saying it felt "deep regret" at the news but respected Mr Leung's decision.

As chief executive, Mr Leung had "deftly managed a series of major political and legal issues, and made vast contributions to the safeguarding of national sovereignty, security and development interests, as well as to Hong Kong's social and political stability", the statement said.

Mr Leung's announcement came two days before a vote to choose the elite committee that will pick his successor.

Members of the financial services, catering, property, accounting and other industry groups will vote for its 1,200 members.

The panel is scheduled to pick the next leader in March, with most members expected to vote for the person Beijing chooses.

AP

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