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Monday, 24 June, 2002, 08:44 GMT 09:44 UK
Hong Kong's leader unveils new cabinet
Tung Chee-hwa announcing new cabinet
The territory's chief said the changes began a 'new era'

Hong Kong's Chief Executive, Tung Chee-hwa, has announced a new cabinet of ministers to help him run the territory.

The appointments mark the biggest shake-up in the territory's government since it ceased to be a colony five years ago.

Tung's new cabinet
14 newly appointed ministers, only five from outside civil service
Five advisers, seen largely as pro-business and pro-Beijing

Mr Tung called the changes a boost for democracy, though the move is controversial because the ministers are unelected and only Beijing can remove them from office.

The choice of some of the ministers themselves will also raise eyebrows.

Symbolic location

Mr Tung unveiled his new line-up of ministers in the grandeur of Hong Kong's old Government House.

Five years ago its marbled and chandeliered halls were the residence of the last British colonial governor.

Now Mr Tung is sweeping away the old British style of rule by civil servants.

Instead he has handpicked 14 ministers to work alongside him.

Old faces

Mr Tung has had problems finding new faces for the posts, and more than half still come from the old civil service.

Nevertheless, Mr Tung described the changes as "the dawning of new era" which would usher in an "open, enlightened and progressive government".

But Hong Kong's democratic parties have complained that the ministers are not elected and not accountable to the citizens of Hong Kong or to its Legislative Council.

Only Beijing can dismiss them - indirectly strengthening its control over the territory.

Some of the figures are controversial:

  • Frederick Ma, the new secretary for financial services and the treasury, has been criticised for links to Hong Kong's richest tycoons.
  • Sarah Liao, the new environment secretary, has been accused of having close ties to major tobacco firms
  • Critics say Stephen Lam, who is in charge of constitutional development, is unlikely to press for moves towards full democratic government in Hong Kong

From their first day in office the ministers have many problems to tackle:

Unemployment is at 7.5%, a record high; the economy has had almost four years of deflation; and almost 200,000 civil servants are in rebellious mood as the government is trying to cut their pay to cope with a huge budget deficit.

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas
"Some of the appointments are controversial"
Head of the Democratic Party Martin Lee
"This so-called accoutnable system is nothing but a sham"
See also:

21 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
30 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
13 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
25 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
12 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
12 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
27 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
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