Thousands protest against Hong Kong's outgoing leader

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 03, 2012 6:28 AM
Thousands protest against Hong Kong's outgoing leader

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Thousands of people marched to the offices of the Hong Kong city government on Saturday, demanding that outgoing chief executive Donald Tsang stand trial following allegations of ethics violations in his dealings with businessmen.

The protest came ahead of an election this month to replace Tsang in which the China-backed frontrunner, Henry Tang, has become embroiled in a political scandal, adding to Beijing's headache.

Tsang, who has led the former British territory since 2005, has come under fire for taking private luxury yacht trips and flights. Some media have accused him of renting a luxurious Shenzhen flat at below market price.

Testifying before Hong Kong's Legislative Council on Thursday, Tsang said he had paid for all the trips, would give up the property in Shenzhen, developed by a real estate tycoon, after the public outcry.

But protesters, singing songs and holding banners, said Tsang had violated public trust and must face trial to clear his name.

"Apologies are insufficient, he needs to better explain his actions," a protester, who was interviewed on local television, said.

Organizers said more than 5,000 participated in Saturday's march, but local police estimated about 2,800 turned up at Victoria Park, the site of Hong Kong's annual Tiananmen vigil and where the protest started.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 amid promises of a high degree of autonomy. But China's leaders have kept grip over political and administrative elite from behind the scenes.

The city's seven million people can elect some legislative and district council members, but have no direct vote for their top leader, who is selected by a 1,200-strong election committee comprised largely of business leaders and Beijing loyalists.

(Reporting by Clement Tan in Hong Kong; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)