Thursday, March 10, 2005
After a week of swirling rumors, Hong Kong's leader Tung Chee-hwa announced at a press conference today at 5:36 p.m. that, "An hour ago, I tendered my resignation as Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to the Central Government." It has not yet been officially accepted by Beijing, though it is likely to pass as a formality.
Though Tung cited health reasons for his decision, it is widely believed he was given the signal to resign by the central government of the People's Republic of China.
"I am 68, because of long hours, 16 to 18 hours a day has taken toll on my health. The third quarter of last year, I began to feel very exhausted, and my immunity is not as good as it was before. Doctors told me that my health used to be good, but if I work this particular schedule continuously it won't do. Doctors asked me to change lifestyle, if i don't comply, my health will be in decline and will suffer from more exhaustion."
When asked whether he was pushed out by Beijing, Tung replied, "That is not the case at all. The central government has repeatedly affirmed the work that I and my colleagues of the SAR government have done, so that is not the case at all."
Tung had become extremely unpopular in the last few years, culminating in a July 1, 2003, rally when over 500,000 people demonstrated against his handling of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the economy and controversial state security provisions.
With his resignation, chief secretary for administration Donald Tsang will take over as provided by the Basic Law. A special election is required within 120 days according to the Chief Executive Election Ordinance.
In his final comments, Tung expressed regret in his inability to complete his term because of his poor health.
"The sense of attachment... with Hong Kong people is enormous, it's just a very special feeling. Its kind of sad to leave."
Related news story on news.gov.hk