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Hong Kong leader heckled on first day in public office

Hong Kong leader heckled on first day in public office

Hong Kong’s new leader was bundled out of an auditorium by police on Monday after he was heckled by protesters, marking a rocky first day in office following the city’s biggest protest in nearly a decade.

By Agence France-Presse

Friday 6 July 2012, 09:25AM

Hong Kong’s new leader, Leung Chun-ying.  Photo: Yuyu

Hong Kong’s new leader, Leung Chun-ying. Photo: Yuyu

The incident comes a day after organisers claimed 400,000 people rallied against Leung Chun-ying and Beijing’s meddling in local affairs, following Leung’s swearing-in as Chief Executive of the territory before Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Police gave a much lower turnout of 63,000 at the rally and march, which took place on the 15th anniversary of the former British colony’s return to China. But both estimates were the highest respective figures for eight years.

A session on Monday that was part of Leung’s charm campaign to address the simmering public discontent was forced to end early after he was heckled by unruly protesters before police escorted him out of the community hall.

Sunday’s protests were a defiant reception for Leung and a show of popular anger among the seven million people of Hong Kong, a financial hub that retains a semi-autonomous status in China with its own legal and financial systems.

President Hu’s weekend visit was held under smothering security, and drew sneers from Hong Kongers as anti-Beijing sentiment surges to a post-handover high in opinion polls.

Leung has pledged to tackle public grievances, including a widening gap between the rich and poor, and soaring property costs which have made home ownership an impossible dream for many residents, especially younger people.

Even before his term began, Leung had already attracted protests drawing thousands of people decrying Chinese interference in the March election where he was picked by a committee stacked with pro-Beijing elites.

Political analysts say that while it is premature to write Leung off, he has to navigate a particularly rocky road.

“Usually we expect a newcomer to have a sort of honeymoon period but he will never have one, it will be a difficult period for him,” Chinese University of Hong Kong political analyst Ma Ngok told AFP.

“He didn’t start with high popularity even when he was so-called elected,” he said. “His popularity rating hovered around for a while and it nose-dived after the recent scandals.”

Just a week before his inauguration, Leung was forced to apologise over illegal improvements at his luxury home and faced criticism from an inquiry into a conflict-of-interest row involving a government project a decade ago.

A poll released by the University of Hong Kong last week showed Leung’s popularity rating falling to 51.5, down 4.2 points from a month ago, with nearly 40 per cent of people saying they did not trust the government.

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