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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 July, 2003, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Hong Kong leader 'will not resign'
Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa at a press conference on Thursday
Tung Chee-hwa is standing firm
Hong Kong's Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa has insisted he will not resign, despite the growing political crisis in the territory.

Mr Tung has been under increasing pressure in the wake of protests at the beginning of July against a controversial anti-subversion bill, which critics said could erode political and religious freedoms.

Two of his senior ministers resigned on Wednesday, fuelling calls for Mr Tung to step down himself.

At a media briefing on Thursday, Mr Tung admitted that the public dissent had left him "sleepless".

He vowed to hold more meetings with political parties, the media and community leaders to increase his accountability to Hong Kong's citizens.

He also said he would open new consultations before he passed the anti-subversion bill to the Legislative Council - a procedure he was forced to delay as a result of the protests.

It's in a precarious position politically
Ajana, Hong Kong

But he reiterated that the territory needed to enact the legislation in line with the Basic Law agreed when Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Mounting crisis

The mass rally on 1 July left Mr Tung facing the biggest crisis in his political career.

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Criticism of Beijing authority
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The resignation on Wednesday of two key government officials - Security Secretary Regina Ip and Finance Secretary Antony Leung - has once again put his position in the spotlight.

There was a further set-back for Mr Tung on Thursday when new statistics showed the territory's unemployment rate at a record 8.6% for the three months to June.

The Hang Seng Index fell by a modest 0.9%, but many investors are expected to wait until after Mr Tung visits Beijing on Saturday before reacting to the latest developments.

Mr Tung is due to brief senior Chinese officials on the current crisis in the territory, and suggest possible replacements for the two departing ministers.

There has been a mixed reaction in Hong Kong to the two ministerial resignations.

Some politicians welcomed the departure of Regina Ip - a key supporter of Article 23 - saying her resignation could open the way for more public consultations about the bill.

But there has also been criticism of Mr Tung's handling of the resignations, and his failure to immediately appoint successors.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Hong Kong leader announced that Ms Ip had resigned for "personal reasons".

Hours afterwards, he confirmed that Antony Leung had also stepped down - a move which critics say was undoubtedly connected to a luxury car scandal involving Mr Leung.

Earlier in the day, the territory's Justice Department had announced it was considering whether to prosecute Mr Leung over his purchase of a new car shortly before raising vehicle taxes in March.

The BBC's Francis Markus
"The two officials at the centre of the drama still haven't been replaced"

Tung's uncertain future
17 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Tung Chee-hwa: Beijing's favoured son
07 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Analysis: China's concern at HK protests
09 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
HK delays anti-subversion bill
07 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
HK rally for more democracy
13 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
HK's scandal-hit finance minister
16 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific

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