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IN THE NEWS - Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa

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Jerilyn Watson

I'm Steve Ember with In the News, in VOA Special English.

All week there was discussion about the future of Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa. Mister Tung, in comments Friday, defended the record of his seven years in office. Yet there were reports that he had already resigned. He was in Beijing for the yearly meeting of the legislature, the National People's Congress.

Mister Tung has been unpopular. In two thousand three, a half-million people protested after he tried to establish a security law approved in Beijing. The demonstrators also were protesting the slow reaction to the spread of the lung infection SARS.

Tung Chee-hwa
Tung Chee-hwa

Tung Chee-hwa is sixty-seven years old. He earned millions of dollars in the shipping business before he became chief executive of Hong Kong. He was the first leader chosen after British colonial rule ended in nineteen ninety-seven. Since then, China and Hong Kong have followed a policy known as "one country, two systems."

The territory's Electoral Committee appointed Mister Tung to a second five-year term in two thousand two.

Hong Kong law says that if the chief executive leaves, the temporary replacement is the chief secretary. That job is held by Donald Tsang.

Local media say Chinese officials may want the next chief executive to serve a full five-year term, instead of just the next two years. If that happens, reports say hopes of democratic reforms could be pushed back at least until two thousand ten.

Pro-democracy politicians in Hong Kong want changes before elections planned in two thousand seven. These politicians want all citizens to have the right to elect their representatives directly. In two thousand, business leaders and professionals chose members of the Hong Kong legislature. Almost seven million people live in Hong Kong. Only about one hundred sixty thousand of them were able to vote.

In Washington this week, there was discussion of another issue involving China. American officials oppose efforts to end a European ban on weapons sales to that country. Some European Union nations have already begun to sell military supplies to China. The ban came after Chinese troops crushed pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in nineteen eighty-nine.

President Bush discussed American concerns during his recent visit to Europe. Reports said he made little progress on this issue with European leaders. The president says easing the ban could, in his words, "change the balance of relations between China and Taiwan." China sees Taiwan as a rebellious province.

This week, the American State Department released its yearly report on human rights around the world. Again, it listed many efforts to suppress dissent in China. And again China reacted with its own report on what the Chinese condemned as United States offenses. These included the mistreatment of prisoners by American soldiers in Iraq.

In the News, in VOA Special English, was written by Jerilyn Watson. I'm Steve Ember.

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