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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hong Kong Poll Shows Approval for New Leader

HONG KONG -- Hong Kong people are giving their first Chinese leader, Tung Cheehwa, a general thumbs-up as the former British colony prepares to toast its 100th day under Beijing's communist red flag.


On the eve of the 100th day and his landmark policy speech, opinion polls showed the 60-year-old former shipping magnate warmly embraced as leader and China as the new sovereign power, even if many people had some misgivings about government policy.


Two surveys gave Tung approval ratings of 68 percent and 65.8 percent, putting him roughly on a par with the highly popular last colonial British governor, Chris Patten.


But the new helmsman has the job of steering Hong Kong through some turbulent political, economic and social currents.


Reminding Tung of resistance to undemocratic rule, the flagship of the pro-democracy movement, the Democratic Party, is staging a sit-down protest through the night on the doorsteps of the Legislative Council, or Legco.


It is from there that the Democrats were ousted when China dissolved the elected Legco and installed an unelected interim chamber on July 1.


Legco's wood-paneled chamber, where the British royal crest and Union Jack have been replaced by China's red flag and Hong Kong's bauhinia blossom emblem, is where Tung will make his maiden "state of the territory" address Wednesday afternoon.


But Tung sees it as one of the most testing days of his life.


"The policy speech will brief the Hong Kong people and the Executive Council on the blueprint of running Hong Kong in the hope that Hong Kong will be a fair, democratic, prosperous and vibrant society," he told reporters after a cabinet meeting.


The territory of 6.5 million people is virtually an autonomous capitalist enclave of China. It is formally called a Special Administrative Region, and Tung is its Chief Executive.


Under a deal between China and Britain, Hong Kong can keep its capitalist way of life and its border with mainland China, and run all its affairs except defense and diplomacy.


Tung has tried to shift the focus of political debate in Hong Kong away from the fate of democracy and human rights and into the realm of bread and butter issues which his aides say will form the bedrock of his policy speech.


His major worries include declining cost competitiveness in a city that is Asia's financial services hub and the main trade gateway between China and the world.


Tung's speech is expected to assail sky-high housing prices, falling standards in education, mounting tensions between employers and workers and poverty among the elderly in his policy vision.


On Wednesday he is likely to announce higher welfare payments to the old and go further on his pledge to add 85,000 new dwellings to the housing supply every year.


But at the same time he has bashed common workers by rolling back labor rights laws.


He has also backed a proposal to import labor from China, which would help to depress the price of labor here, a move welcomed by Hong Kong's "tycoon government."